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Pitt to increase mask use amid COVID-19 spike in state

NCAA Football: Austin Peay at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pitt football team will increase mask use starting Saturday, as the Pittsburgh area and Pennsylvania as a whole have seen COVID-19 cases spiral out of control over the last couple of weeks. Specifically, Pennsylvania reported 7,126 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, marking a single-day high for the state.

Initially, Pitt planned to have players and staff don masks at all times. This plan was established in order to comply with new state rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“In alignment with the recent guidance from state officials regarding the current health climate, Pitt’s football team will be appropriately outfitted for Saturday’s game with face coverings to use on the field and sideline,” Pitt’s first statement read. “This is being communicated to Virginia Tech’s sports medicine staff as well.”

The most notable aspect of the statement from Pitt was that players would be required to wear masks while playing. Andrea Adelson of ESPN described this as an unprecedented measure, and Penn State and the Pittsburgh Steelers issued statements noting their players would not be wearing masks on the field.

The fact that Pitt was the only major college or pro football team in Pennsylvania planning on wearing masks on the field prompted questions from the public as well as a new statement from Pitt in which it reversed course on the plan to wear masks while playing.

“To provide further clarity, Pitt football student-athletes will be outfitted with face coverings throughout the game," Pitt said. "However, they will not be required to have the coverings pulled up while in the midst of play to prevent the impairment of breathing. Such usage of face coverings during competition would be in compliance with Section 3 of the Secretary of Health’s Face Covering Order.”

So the bottom line is that Pitt players will join Pitt staff in wearing face coverings on the sidelines this week, as that will now be a requirement. However, contrary to the first statement from Pitt, the team will not have to wear masks or gaiters on the field.