MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It seems masks will be a big part of the plan to get youth and high school sports back to playing. Teams can start practicing next week, with games 10 days later. Youth and adult sports can resume practice on Jan. 4. Games start up again on Jan. 14.

Hopkins is ready to go.

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“I think everyone is really really excited for Jan. 4 to get here where there can be a little bit of normalcy,” Hopkins Public Schools athletic director Dan Johnson said.

The MDH released new guidelines on Monday that will require athletes to wear masks during practice and games. There will be exceptions made for sports like gymnastics, cheerleading, wrestling, and swimming.

“Considering the number of lives that have been lost, jobs lost, to have to wear a mask when we’re participating is not all that tragic,” Johnson said.

The debate over youth sports and COVID has been a passionate one. The group Let Them Play Minnesota has gathered thousands of supporters on Facebook. They sued Gov. Tim Walz, saying his pause on youth sports is not being based on data or science.

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A judge denied the lawsuit.

“There’s an enormous increase in young adults reporting levels of depression, suicide, it’s far above what it’s been in the past,” attorney Sam Diehl said.

Diehl says the mask requirement is also concerning. He says the state’s own data does not support that youth sports are causing the spread of COVID.

“Whenever you’re exerting yourself, it’s not healthy to cover your mouth. You need to breathe,” Diehl said. “Being able to do some activities is better than the governor banning them.”

Before the dialback the state said that sports were linked to 192 outbreaks of COVID-19. Diehl says the group is appealing part of the lawsuit.

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Kate Raddatz