It was reported yesterday that the governor of Pennsylvania issued a new mandate requiring that all athletes in the state wear masks at all times. Burt Lauten, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Steelers, said in a statement that the team had “received guidance” from the governor’s office that the team would be exempt from that mandate.
Lyndsay Kensinger, the governor’s press secretary, told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reached out to the governor’s office, which disputed the insinuation that they had granted any exemption. According to Rutter, Lauten followed up by telling the paper that the Steelers are covered under an exemption in the Secretary of Health’s Universal Face Covering Order. The following is what Rutter shared from Kensinger:
Everyone involved in sport activities must wear a face covering, such as a mask, unless they fall under an exception listed in Section 3 of the Secretary of Health’s Universal Face Covering Order. Coaches, athletes, and spectators must wear face coverings unless they are outdoors and can consistently maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.
Coaches, athletes, and spectators must wear face coverings while actively engaged in workouts and competition as well as when on the sidelines, in the dugout etc. unless they meet an exception in the Face Covering Order. Section 3 of the Order provides an exception that allows an individual to remove their mask if wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability.
The Order indicates all alternatives to wearing a face covering, including the use of a face shield, should be exhausted before an individual is excepted from this Order.
Meanwhile, the NFL recently instituted leaguewide intensive protocols for all 32 teams in response the nationwide surges of Covid-19 cases, which will remain in effect indefinitely. The intensive protocols require that masks be warn at all times while at team facilities.
The league has also recently ‘strongly encouraged’ all players while not actively in-game to wear masks while they are on the sidelines. On Sunday, for example, after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger exited in a blowout victory, he was seen wearing a mask on the sideline while speaking to head coach Mike Tomlin.
To date, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no convincing evidence from any major competitive sport of a case of in-game transmission of the virus. However, the league has worked hard to try to keep the sidelines clear and to limit pre- and post-game mingling.
As of this writing, the Steelers still have two players on the Reserve/Covid-19 List. At the very least, tight end Vance McDonald is eligible to be activated. If lineman Kevin Dotson did not test positive and was only placed on the list as a close contact, he, too, would be eligible, but it has never been reported whether or not the tested positive. If he did, he would also miss Sunday’s game, as he was placed on the list on Saturday, and players must be on the list for at least 10 days.