Pitt and Virginia Tech players will wear face coverings both on the field and on the sidelines in Saturday’s game at Heinz Field “in alignment with the recent guidance from state officials regarding the current health climate,” Pitt announced Friday afternoon.
Face shields on helmets, which many players wear already, will not suffice. The Panthers and Hokies will be “appropriately outfitted” with either masks or neck gaiters to be worn whether they’re on the field playing or not.
The news comes three days after Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine released stricter mask requirements for state residents in attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. One of the orders required that people wear masks outdoors when “unable to maintain sustained physical distance.”
According to an FAQ on the state health department’s website, the requirement applies to athletes. But Section 3 of Levine’s order states that there’s an exemption for those that “wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Friday afternoon that Section 3 does apply to players, so those playing would not be required to wear face coverings. Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said Wednesday the team received guidance from the governor’s office that “our players are exempt from wearing masks during an NFL game.”
Pitt, it seems, is interpreting those recommendations differently, though it will affect only one game for the Panthers. Their final two regular-season contests are at Clemson next Saturday and at Georgia Tech on Dec. 10.
Pitt still plans on playing host to a reduced capacity crowd of 5,500 for this weekend’s Senior Day game. According to a statement from a Pitt spokesperson: “Our ability to host fans has not changed from the Notre Dame contest. The same limitations apply for this Saturday.”