Walz’s Mask Mandate for Youth Sports Ripped as Unscientific

Resistance continues to mount over Gov. Tim Walz’s order allowing youth sports to resume this month with a big if.  Young athletes can suit up only if they wear protective masks in practice and on the playing field.

American Experiment pointed out the obvious contradictions in the governor’s policy soon after it became public.

Gov. Tim Walz claims to be all about the science when it comes to his proclamations of who can and cannot do what in exercising his emergency powers during the pandemic. Yet Walz’s latest executive order (EO) requiring most high schoolers participating in sports to wear protective masks clashes with his own guidelines giving professional athletes a pass from having to comply with the same restrictions.

Now Twin Cities orthopedic surgeon Andrew Arthur has taken a scalpel to Walz’s mask mandate for young Minnesota athletes in the Star Tribune. The headline, “COVID masks for young athletes are worse than useless,” serves as a spoiler alert for an unusually hard-hitting column from an author who also played college hoops and has a molecular biology degree.

 The reality is that face coverings should not be considered safe for any athlete to wear during a competition.

Face coverings are unsafe because they are physically distracting, disruptive to an athlete’s vision and depth perception, and may get caught or snagged leading to other unintended injuries to an athlete’s eyes, ears, throat and nose.

If soccer does not allow earrings due to safety concerns, how is it that a face mask is viewed as less dangerous? How does an athlete who requires corrective glasses safely compete if, while wearing a mask, those glasses are constantly fogging up?

And if a hockey player’s face covering becomes dislodged and blocks that player’s vision, could that player then blindly crash into the boards causing injury, even paralysis? How exactly is the hockey player supposed to safely adjust the face covering while wearing hockey gloves and with a helmet/face mask in the way?

You get the picture. The question is why Walz and his experts don’t. Arthur flatly says it’s all about public relations, rather than science.

Does the Department of Health have access to a trove of science and data that prove face masks are safe to wear during sports competition? Does the department have data that prove face masks will prevent the spread of COVID-19 during sports competition? And has the Department of Health considered science and data in any of the decisions they have made related to youth-level sports? The answer is “no.” There simply is no science to support their decisions.

Rather than forming rules based in science, the Department of Health has chosen rules based on public perception. Perception of safety is important, but this is not what we ask of our public health experts. Our rightful expectation is that they will make decisions rooted in science and data. Their failure to do so will undoubtedly result in degradation of their already shaky credibility.

Walz and the MDH still have a chance to salvage some of their “shaky credibility” before the games begin next week. But it would have to be based on science, rather than public perception.