PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. - As temperatures heat up, so does the concern of some parents worried about their kids wearing masks in hot weather.
More children are competing in sports and activities as summer draws nearer, yet they are still required to wear masks.
Erica Frank, a mother of three in Pierce County, said she’s concerned for the safety of student-athletes as it gets warmer. She’s already seeing it affect kids in her community.
"They don’t even want to do the sport if they’re going to have to wear a mask. They’d rather just stay home," said Frank.
Her daughter Eliana, a first-grader, was ready to tumble into all of her summer sports and activities: Gymnastics, soccer, dance, acrobatics and swimming.
Since most sports and clubs were closed last summer in the pandemic, this will be the first time several kids will participate in the heat. As temperatures are rising, Eliana said wearing a mask while competing is becoming a challenge.
"It’s hard to breathe in and I don’t want to wear a mask anymore," said Eliana.
"I’m definitely concerned for her safety. I actually just took her out of all the sports camps. So we’re no longer doing them because the thought of sending her to sports camp in 80-degree weather running around is just a risk I wasn’t willing to take for her health," said Frank.
A spokesperson for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association said all of its COVID and mask guidance comes directly from the governor’s office and the Washington State Department of Health.
A representative from the governor’s office said there is no set time yet, but there is, "intent to change the guidance to align with CDC recommendations."
Those recommendations are all vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask or social distance two weeks after their second dose, except where rules still apply set at the local, state, federal and tribal levels, local businesses and workplace guidance.
Frank said she hopes new mask policies come soon before children get hurt in the heat.
"We’ve seen in Oregon a mom calling for Oregon’s policy to change after her daughter collapsed in a basketball practice. New Mexico—I just saw another story where a track star collapsed outside from wearing a mask," said Frank.
A spokesperson for DOH said there is no denying masks can be uncomfortable when it’s hot, but face coverings for kids are still recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Until there is new guidance in Washington, DOH has tips to help young athletes feel more comfortable:
- Wear a light-colored, lightweight mask while in the hot sun
- Bring a replacement mask to switch out the sweaty one
- Take breaks to cool down and hydrate
Further details of the state's COVID-19 sporting activities guidance is available online.
The governor’s office said it’s working on changes to several documents in order to meet the CDC mask recommendations. Frank said until the rules change, her daughter will be tumbling mask-free from home.
"We really need to focus on keeping kids, the whole person healthy—which looks far beyond coronavirus, to their mental health, their physical well-being and their social-emotional growth," said Frank.
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