State revises mask mandate for outdoor athletics after Summit HS runner collapses at finish line

KTVZ 21

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Maggie Williams, a junior on the Summit High School track team, broke a school record in the 800-meter last Thursday. Her moment of glory has been somewhat overshadowed a by moment of concern – Williams passed out as she stumbled her way across the finish line. She and her coach say the mask is to blame, and now the Oregon Health Authority is updating its guidelines.

Williams ran the 800-meter race in 2:08:45, which beat the previous school record of 2:10:54 set in 2019.

“I found out a couple minutes after my race, when I had recovered from my fall,” Williams told NewsChannel 21 Monday. “So super exciting for me.”

The fall Williams is referring to happened during the last seven meters of the race, just as she was about to finish.

“I felt like I just wasn’t being able to get a full breath,” she said. “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, under OHA guidelines 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.”

Her coach, Dave Turnbull, echoed that belief Monday morning.

“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.”

Turnbull said that after 31 years of experience, he’s confident this 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 he considered not letting his athletes run again with the current state guidelines in place.

Turnbull and Williams made clear they are not anti-mask, but they wanted OHA to make a change to 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.

They and others spoke out about what happened — and OHA listened, releasing this statement Monday afternoon:

“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.

*   The exception will not apply while training and conditioning for these sports or for competitions.
*   The exception will not apply before and after competing.

“Oregon at present is facing a fourth wave of surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and wider community spread of the virus. Mask wearing has proven to be effective at slowing spread of the virus – particularly in conjunction with other protective measures such as physical distancing, restricting gatherings, hand washing and getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“As always, OHA will revise guidance as needed to protect public health during the pandemic.”

NewsChannel 21 followed up with Turnbull and Williams after the announcement, and he called it a win.

“I feel like we’re offering a safe activity for kids now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Williams said in a text, “I’m very excited that some good can come out of this situation.”

State revises mask mandate for outdoor athletics after Summit HS runner collapses at finish line

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