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Let Them Play MN sues Walz over youth sports mask mandate

The CDC says masks may make it hard to breathe in high-intensity sports.

A mask mandate for youth sports is the reason for a new lawsuit filed this week by Let Them Play MN, an organization that believes Gov. Tim Walz's executive order is harmful to young athletes. 

“We have repeatedly asked Governor Walz and MDH to show us any data indicating wearing masks while playing youth sports, or any other of their constantly changing restrictions are necessary, or even safe," Let Them Play MN attorney Sam Diehl said in a statement. 

Deihl says Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health have refused to provide an explanation for their actions, though the Centers for Disease Control has maintained for months that mask-wearing helps slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Per the CDC, high-intensity activities that require a high level of exertion "present a higher level of risk of getting and spreading COVID-19." 

The Minnesota Department of Health's COVID-19 Sports Practice and Games Guidance for Youth and Adults says face coverings must be worn by all people at all times, with only these exceptions: 

  • Wrestling - due to choking or visual hazard
  • Gymnastics - temporarily removed if choking concerns or getting the mask caught on objects. 
  • Swim/Dive - masks not mandated while in the water. 
  • Sports with helmets - alternatives to face coverings may be used, including helmets with a full face shield that prevent splashes, sprays and aerosols from free movement. Face shields, however, must cover the entire face and extend to the ears and below the chin. 

Basketball is a high-intensity sport where masks are mandated in Minnesota, despite the CDC saying athletes participating in high-intensity sports "may not be able to wear a mask if it causes difficulty breathing. 

"Playing with a mask ain't no joke," tweeted Chet Holmgren, a basketball player from Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis who is ranked as one of the top high school seniors in the country. 

Let Them Play MN attempted to sue Walz over the stoppage of all youth sports in late 2020, but that attempt was denied by a federal judge who said reasons for the executive order at the time was satisfactory. 

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