California Gov. Gavin Newsom updated the state’s guidance on the return of youth and high school sports on Friday, clearing a path for the return of football and other outdoor sports.
According to the updated guidance, outdoor high-contact sports can be played in counties in the purple and red tiers as long as the counties have a case rate at or below 14 per 100,000. The guidance goes into effect on Feb. 26.
Weekly testing requirements will also be put in place for high-contact sports, but not for moderate-contact sports. The high-contact sports include football, rugby and water polo. The moderate-contact sports include baseball, cheerleading and softball.
According to Gov. Newsom, 19 counties are currently eligible to resume high-contact outdoor sports on Feb. 26. And it’s possible several more will be eligible when the latest county metrics are released on Monday. Newsom also said the state will pay for the cost associated with regular testing of high school athletes.
Read the full updated guidelines here, and stay with SBLive as we break down what this means, section-by-section, throughout the day.
BACKGROUND ON RETURN TO PLAY MOVEMENT
The CDPH last released updated youth sports guidelines on December 14. Those guidelines pushed back the California high school sports season to Jan. 25.
Since the statewide Stay At Home order was lifted on Jan. 25, sports in the purple tier could begin to be played if districts and private schools allowed them and the sport is in its designated season of sport. The only Season 1 sport allowed to be played in the purple tier was cross country, but beginning Feb. 26, football, field hockey and water polo can start in counties that are at or below 14 cases per 100,000 people.
Volleyball, another Season 1 sport, can still not be played because it is an indoor yellow tiered moderate contact sport.
The tiered system monitors every county’s COVID-19 test positivity and adjusted case rate and is still in effect, but beginning on Feb. 26 more outdoor sports can be played if counties have a case rate at or below 14 per 100,000. Here’s how the tier system works, according to the California Department of Public Health:
“Every county in California is assigned to a tier based on its test positivity and adjusted case rate. At a minimum, counties must remain in a tier for at least 3 weeks before moving forward. Data is reviewed weekly and tiers are updated on Mondays. To move forward, a county must meet the next tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks. If a county’s metrics worsen for two consecutive weeks, it will be assigned a more restrictive tier. Public health officials are constantly monitoring data and can step in if necessary.”
Some districts have already canceled Season 1 sports and some Sections previously changed their calendars to allow sports that could be played to begin sooner, but that did not happen in any of the three Southern California Sections.
Last month, the Southern Section and LA City Section canceled postseasons for Season 1 Sports. The City Section still plans to hold its cross country championship on March 27, but that is the one exception.
The CIF must follow guidance from the health department because they are organized under the Department of Education, according to CIF State Executive Director Ron Nocetti, so these new rules will be in effect until they’re updated again in the future.
“The CIF is organized under the Department of Education and we’re authorized to operate by the state legislature,” Nocetti said at a CIF State Executive Council meeting earlier this month. “We will comply with the state guidance.”
In October, the CIF Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommended that all sports could be played in the red tier, according to CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod.
“They recommended that all of our sports be in the red tier,” he said. “And along with that was a 36 page document with specific health and safety protocols for each sport keying in on how you would do it and utilizing different protocols for location of team benches, how to use the volleyball’s that come in and out of the match, pre-game protocols, post-game ones too, a lot of different things involved with any kind of athletic contest. So that was all put together in a comprehensive plan submitted in October.”
While it’s still not exactly what the CIF Sports Medicine Advisory proposed in October, Friday’s updated youth sports guidance from the CDPH is a step closer to what the CIF recommended and will allow more student athletes to participate in high school sports.