Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced a universal mask mandate for Illinois' K-12 schools that extends to indoor athletics.
Pritzker said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the rising number of COVID-19 cases among young people, fueled in part by the disease's spreading Delta variant, is leading to him enforcing universal masking inside of schools regardless of vaccination status.
Pritzker also said face coverings will be required for all indoor recreation. That will not be the case for outdoor sports. He added that his office is prepared to supply masks to any school districts that need them.
On the IHSA front, the mandate most immediately will affect those associated with volleyball and girls' swimming and diving — athletes, coaches, officials, spectators and any others.
As of now, it will not impact those associated with outdoor sports like football, boys' soccer, golf, cross-country and girls' tennis. Should athletes in any of those sports have to practice indoors, however, the mandate would affect them. It also affects athletes participating in weight training indoors.
The IHSA later Wednesday released a statement addressing Pritzker's mandate, with IHSA executive director Craig Anderson saying in a statement that "this mask directive for indoor athletic events applies to student-athletes, coaches, officials, game personnel and fans."
"This masking mandate applies to all IHSA fall sport practices and contests that are conducted indoors," Anderson continued. "Swimmers and divers do not have to wear masks while competing, but must adhere at all other times. The masking directive also applies to any winter or spring IHSA sports that may be conducting open gyms, general conditioning or weightlifting indoors."
Masks were required for volleyball athletes during their condensed 2021 spring season, as well as for swimmers and divers when they weren't actively competing during their 2020 fall campaign.
Anderson went on to address fan attendance and scheduling at indoor fall sports events amid Pritzker's mandate.
"There are no restrictions to scheduling or spectator limitations as a result of (Wednesday's) announcement, nor are there any changes to the IHSA calendar for any sports," Anderson said. "(Wednesday's) announcement will not deter us from our mission of safely offering high school student-athletes in Illinois the opportunity to participate in sports and activities."