"Masks required" sign at baseball field
"Face mask required" signs such as this one appeared at the PHS baseball field. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Standing near a tree in between the concession stand and the parking lot on Wednesday afternoon, Philomath High School Athletic Director Tony Matta caught a few minutes of the baseball game while wearing a mask.

But for the majority of folks watching, masks were nowhere to be seen. On display in various spots around the complex were reminders that face masks were required but few opted to wear one.

Matta and other school officials are afraid that COVID-19 will surge again and jeopardize future events, including the upcoming basketball, wrestling and swimming seasons as well as the graduation ceremony.

“I know it’s been over a year and people are tired of it … it’s just a matter of nicely reminding people please wear it,” Matta said. “I know there are places that kick people out and we don’t want it to come to that; we don’t want to have to do that sort of stuff.”

The school district was planning to send a letter out on the subject to families and students.

“Really, it’s about protecting Season 4 and graduation under the idea that we really need you to wear your mask when you’re sitting there on the backside of the backstop,” Matta said. “We don’t want to be confrontational and we don’t know if you’re vaccinated or not or any of that sort of stuff.”

Season 4 is how the Oregon School Activities Association identifies the “winter sports” that will be played in May and June.

The OSAA sent out the following message:

“All involved at an interscholastic event — administrators, coaches, officials, spectators and participants — has a collective responsibility to ensure the state’s face-covering requirements are followed so these activities may continue occurring.”

Benton County remains in the “high risk” category at least through May 6. Events such as baseball, softball and tennis have been attracting parents, students and other fans.

“If it helps to even reduce the numbers minimally, it still helps to reduce them,” Matta said. “The kids on the field — we want them to look and see that everybody else is doing what they have to.”

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