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Lantz: If you want a football season, wear a mask
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Lantz: If you want a football season, wear a mask

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It has become pretty clear over the past several days that what we are doing isn’t working. 

If you want fall sports to be played to their conclusion, there is one way to help make that happen. 

Wear a mask.

As a sportswriter, I travel a lot around the Globe Gazette's coverage area and have seen how different schools and programs have approached the pandemic. It varies wildly. 

At St. Ansgar, masks are required for all football players until they leave the facility. At the volleyball match I attended recently, every player and spectator was masked up. 

At other schools, there isn’t a mask in sight at football games, and social distancing is followed about as closely as the most recent season of “The Walking Dead.” 

Just this week, the North Iowa football scene has been hit hard by COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Mason City High School shut down its football program for two weeks due to members of the coaching staff being exposed to COVID-19. On Wednesday, both Osage and Charles City announced that they, too, were going to be sidelined for two weeks due to positive tests. 

While coaches can ensure health safety while their players are at practice, they can only hope that players will be careful when out in the community.

This whole year has been a wild ride, with COVID-19 changing all of our lives drastically. When sports first shut down in mid-March, for the most part, it seemed like the majority of people were on board with doing all they could to stem the spread of the virus.

When spring sports were eventually canceled, there was widespread sadness, but most seemed to agree that it was what was best for the health of all. 

Expressions of solidarity were made for the seniors who never got to finish their senior year. Special proms were held so that the seniors did not have to miss out on everything. 

Now, with school back in session and fall sports going again, it seems that those worries have gone out the window. “Encouraging” or "recommending" that people wear face masks and social distance clearly isn’t going to be enough.

We’re in danger of having  this year’s senior class miss out on even more of the rites of passage than the Class of 2020 did. 

Every school in North Iowa needs to take concrete steps such as requiring that masks be worn at all times during games by all attendees. A mask mandate would not cure everything, but it would be a good start toward ensuring that the season will not end prematurely.  

I’m not a medical expert by any means, but I’ve been doing my best to follow the advice of health experts by wearing a mask anytime I am around large groups of people. I’m not in the high-risk category for COVID-19, but it has become clear that this disease is not just affecting the old and the sick. 

The IHSAA did a good job of preparing for the challenges of the 2020 season by ensuring that every team would make the playoffs, regardless of how many games they played. This makes it so that teams don‘t have their season ruined by a positive COVID test, and still have an opportunity to finish on a high note. 

But the rest of it is going to be up to us. Wearing a mask is not going to make the pandemic go away, but it might help slow things and keep your favorite football team on the field. 

The players, coaches and game-day workers are in our communities, and one positive test could bring this season crashing down, or worse, severely impact someone's health. 

It is time for everyone to do their part, and it's time for schools to take more concrete steps to ensure health recommendations are followed. It stinks, but it’s the reality of 2020. "Encouraging" the wearing of masks just isn't good enough. At over half of the schools in the Top of Iowa conference, masks are not required. That needs to change.

If you want the Friday Night Lights to keep shining bright, do your part. Wear a mask. 

Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz. 

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