News and Commentary

‘This Rule Needs To Change’: Oregon Track Coach Blasts Outdoor Mask Mandate For Athletes After Runner Collapses
Merritt Island High School / Merritt Island / Florida
John Coletti/Getty Images

A high school distance runner in Oregon passed out on the track on Wednesday, April 21, from what her coach described as “complete oxygen debt” from wearing a mask.

During the 800-meter event, Maggie Williams collapsed just a few meters from the finish line from oxygen deprivation. The track star broke a state record and walked away from the fall with a burn on her face and scraped elbows and knees. 

Coach Dave Turnbull ripped the state’s face mask mandate for outdoor competitive distance runners. In an interview with The Bulletin, Turnbull said the state’s health code is “not reasonable” and challenged bureaucrats to run with a mask on. 

“I am concerned with the mask rule. This is what I am worried about and I said this at the beginning of the season. You get a kid running the 800 with a mask on, it is actually dangerous. They don’t get the oxygen that they need. This rule needs to change,” Turnbull said. “Unfortunately in Oregon, we have to follow the [Oregon Health Authority]. And the OHA is not reasonable. I would like those people to come out and run an 800 with a mask on.”

The Oregonian’s sportswriter John Canzano said that coaches have seen an uptick in oxygen-depleted runners. He also claimed that scientific evidence does not support mandating face masks for outdoor sports. 

Distance runners are being required to wear masks while competing. Most of them are fine wearing them while warming up. But once they’re on the track, outdoors, competing in open air the science just doesn’t support the necessity. In fact, the mandate is now raising questions about athlete safety and oxygen depletion. 

A runner collapsing in a competitive distance race isn’t unheard of. It happens sometimes. But state high school coaches will tell you they’re seeing gasping, oxygen-depleted runners on a far more frequent basis this season. Coaches would be in favor of requiring athletes to wear masks to the start line, then take them off to run, then put them back on after the race. 

“I’ve been doing this for 31 years, I’ve never seen anybody basically lose consciousness,” Turnbull told The Oregonian. “I’ve never seen it in the way it happened with Maggie.” 

Rules regarding outdoor masking are rumored to change in the upcoming days. According to NBC News, President Joe Biden is expected to announce that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update its guidance for wearing masks outdoors. The guidance will reportedly be for fully vaccinated people. 

On ABC News’s This Week, Dr. Anthony Fauci told George Stephanopoulos that the CDC should be updating guidance “soon.” Fauci claimed that the risk of contracting coronavirus outdoors is “really, really quite low.” 

This rumored rule change would only apply to high school and collegiate athletes, as the current vaccines are only approved for people aged 16 and older.