Rep. Breese-Iverson: Open letter to Governor on masks

By State Representative Vikki Breese-Iverson

Dear Governor Brown,

I am writing to bring to your attention a serious incident which occurred in my district and urge your help to prevent alarming events of similar nature in the future.

The episode involves a i6-year old female student-athlete who collapsed during high school basketball tryouts. The student had trouble breathing with her face covering, suffered from a lack of oxygen, ultimately lost consciousness, and for a time stopped breathing. A great coach administered CPR, and the young athlete was transported to the local emergency room where, thankfully, she fully recovered. A detailed account of the incident is attached for your review. You can make sure this never happens again.

I believe the time has come to fully revisit the mask-mandate (or high school student- athletes, particularly in sports with the potential for high intensity, high aerobic output such as basketball. As you know, this is not the first instance of a young athlete collapsing due to a lack of oxygen from masks, and I Year it won’t be the last.

Last month you and the Oregon Health Authority acted swiftly and appropriately when you revised the mask mandate for athletes competing in outdoor non-contact sports. As our population moves towards “herd immunity,” it’s time to take the next step and revisit the mandate for indoor sports, which has started in full around the state. Just like professional sports, we can keep our kids safe without risking their health with restricted airflow.

Various models exist for students to compete in extracurricular activities safely. In some states – Pennsylvania for example – each school is given the discretion to develop its own mask policy. Many of Pennsylvania’s high school teams do not require masks while actively competing. In South Carolina, Governor McMaster recently issued an order preventing school districts from requiring face coverings for student athletes; instead choosing to leave the choice to parents. Other states delegate decision-making to local jurisdictions or school districts. Oregon is now at a place where we can safely extend this freedom to our school districts and/or parents, who ultimately have the best interest of their children in mind and should be in charge of their well-being.

At this point in the pandemic, various tools exist for families to protect themselves and their loved ones. During this pandemic, you have shown the willingness to revisit decisions based on new information and avoid unintended consequences. We are experiencing unintended consequences and will doubtless see more instances like this one from my district. It is time to revisit this decision and prevent the possibility of this near tragedy happening to others.

You are in a difficult position as you try to weigh the right approach for balancing public health, economic impact, and personal freedoms related to the COVID-i9 pandemic and the safety of Oregonians. I urge you to carefully consider our youth’s ability to safely participate in sports.

lt is time to make the appropriate changes and give communities, schools, and parents the ability to choose how best to keep their kids safe.