Oregon reverses mask mandate for athletic activities after high school track athlete collapsed in race

A high school student who is on the school’s track team collapsed at the finish line of an event. In response the state of Oregon revised their mask mandate for outdoor athletics.

Maggie Williams, a junior on the Summit High School track team, broke a school record in the 800-meter race on the 22nd of April. She ran the entire race in 2:08:45, which beats the previous school record of 2:10:54, which was set in 2019. At the finish line, she collapsed, which she and her coach blames on her mask. “I felt like I just wasn’t being able to get a full breath,” Williams told NewsChannel 21 (KTVZ). “Multiple times of that happening, not being able to get enough air — I just felt super-dizzy, and then eventually passed out.” 

Williams said her lack of oxygen is a result of the mask she’s been required to wear during competition because of Oregon Health Authority regulations for outdoor sports. “In the past, this has never happened,” Williams said. “Then this race that I was wearing a mask, it did happen, which I don’t think is a coincidence.”

Williams’ coach, Dave Turnbull, also echoed her belief on the morning of April 26th. “She just ran a 2:11 in Arizona without a mask on,” Turnbull said. “Three seconds faster from my experience isn’t going to cause a kid to hit the track. When you’re in a mask, it certainly does.” As he has 31 years of experience, Turnbull is confident the collapse wasn’t a conditioning issue – it was a mask issue. “It was a different response than I’ve seen for kids that have collapsed to the track just because they were exhausted,” he said. “She wasn’t sure where she was.” Turnbull told NewsChannel 21 (KTVZ) he considered not allowing his athletes to run again with the state guidelines in place. Coach Turnbull and Williams made clear they are not anti-mask, but they wanted OHA to change the policies during competition. “We were so fortunate this didn’t end up in a real serious injury with Maggie, but we shouldn’t gamble on the next one,” Turnbull said.

The Oregon Health Authority released this statement on April 26th, “The Oregon Health Authority regularly reviews COVID-19 guidance based on medical evidence and evolving science. We are revising the current guidance on the use of masks outdoors during competition. The guidance will allow people to take off face coverings when competing in non-contact sports outdoors and maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others and the other virus protective protocols.” NewsChannel 21 (KTVZ) followed up with Turnbull and Williams after the announcement. “I feel like we’re offering a safe activity for kids now,” Turnbull said. Williams responded in a text saying, “I’m very excited that some good can come out of this situation.”




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