Here’s what California Gov. Gavin Newsom said about the return of youth and high school sports

California Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the media on Friday after the California Department of Public Health cleared a path for the return of youth and high school sports across the state. The updated guidance allows for moderate-contact and high-contact outdoor sports to begin on Feb. 26 when counties reach 14 cases per 100,000 residents. As of today, 19 counties are eligible to return to play.

Here’s what Newsom had to say in the press conference, which was held in Alameda County:

“We’ve been looking at the data, looking at the science, looking at best practices all across the county, working with the CDC, working with public health officers at the state level and local level and really analyzing the science, looking at the data and transmission. We are now confident with new guidelines that we’re publishing today that we can get youth sports moving again in the state of California, get competition moving again in the state of California with as always caveats.

“None of us are naive, despite the fact that we’ve dropped to 3.1% positivity in the state, we were at 9.9% 30 days ago, despite the fact that we have 7,000 thousand reported cases today and had 24,000 reported cases 30 days ago. Despite those facts, those very encouraging trends, we still need to be cautious until we reach herd-immunity. And so there are components in our reopening plan for youth sports that do require for high-contact sports like rugby, like water polo, yes, like football that we have some testing requirements that the state of California will provide for. We will absorb the costs, we will provide those tests. We’ve put out these guidelines in partnership, in concert with organizations large and small including the Let Them Play coalition and I want to thank them for their strong advocacy and their support of a process that we’ve engaged in over the last number of weeks and the give and take in terms of landing on the new guidelines and where we are today.

“I want to thank members of legislature both in the assembly and senate for their advocacy and support as well but at the end of the day I want to thank the coaches, the staff, the incredible mentors to these kids. I want to thank these athletes for recognizing what sports did to them and the fact that not only as athletes but as wonderful human beings that are examples to others because people bend down on one knee to lift them up, primarily their coaches, primarily the staff supporting, not only their athleticism but their development as human beings and recognizing others and recognizing collaboration and recognizing that sports is a lot more than what happens within the lines, it’s everything else that happens outside those lines.”

Newsom then introduced two members of the San Francisco 49ers, Arik Armstead and Josh Johnson, who are former standout California high school athletes.

Arik Armstead: “Like Gavin said I’m a Sacramento native, born and raised. I grew up playing football and basketball in the area and I know the impact it had on my life and I know the impact youth sports has on our society and the rest of our state and the youth as well. Also being a husband to a child and adolescence psychiatrist and being able to see first hand the mental health issues that the pandemic has caused on our youth, I’m a big advocate for getting youth sports back.

“I heard and listened to the Let Them Play coalition and the stats they raised and the risk they raised and being able to see that other states have played youth sports, I’m very excited to see today that California will be joining the rest of the states that have played and getting our students back playing. They need camaraderie, they need to be around their friends, they need it for their health, both mentally and physically. I’m extremely honored and excited that they’ll be able to return and play again.”

Josh Johnson: “Thanks Gavin for allowing me to be a part of this. I think today is a tremendous first step in the right direction. Sports is outside of my faith and my family pretty much everything. Having a sports driven family, my mom and my dad our coaches, I have cousins who coach, uncles who coach. Sports has been my gateway out of the struggle in Oakland that we had to endure. Without it, I don’t know where I would be today. Going through this pandemic has really been a challenge for myself personally. I was part of the XFL, which COVID ended. I was trying to figure out how to keep my body ready without a gym open, throughout the process I felt the struggle that most normal people were feeling because life is different when you wake up and you’re not working out everyday. I can feel the mental energy and the energy that I have in my body is not the same but after a workout and just how you’re able to process things and feel better about life and take on the challenges of life, it all starts with the foundation of what sports provides.

“And when you look at the camaraderie factor and teamwork factor, like I was telling people earlier, sports is the only place where we commonly come together from all different walks of life to be able to find a mutual understanding. To be able to give that to these kids at this young age is very important because they need that and we don’t want them to miss that and grow up in a world where they don’t experience that because we don’t know that outcome. The outcome that sports will provide for them will be way more transcendent than without them. Some of our best leaders will come out of this thing, some of our best innovators will come out of this but it gives them a structure for those who needs it. I’m thankful for you guys for starting this journey back forward that we all have to take on as country to get things back to normal and I’m just excited to be able to go out and watch these kids play and be able to see the joy on their face that sports provides for them and those that take advantage of the opportunity and how it can help change their lives and their family lives forever.”

WATCH THE FULL PRESS CONFERENCE:

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