Gov. Newsom lifts ban on all California high school sports; rigorous testing required for indoor sports in purple and red tiers

Nearly two weeks after lawyers representing high school athletes in San Diego won a temporary restraining order to resume high school sports in San Diego County, the same legal team announced Thursday that they had reached a statewide settlement allowing all youth and high school sports throughout California to resume immediately.

As a result of the settlement the California Department of Public Health released an update to its youth sports guidelines Thursday evening. The new guidelines allow indoor sports to take place immediately, as long as regular testing is conducted, in line with the requirements imposed on college and pro teams.

According to the guidance, high school teams must “adhere to the additional requirements imposed on collegiate sports, as specified in the Institutions of Higher Education Guidance, dated September 30, 2020.”

The CDPH summarized exactly what that requires:

Testing 

  • Regular periodic COVID-19 testing of athletes and support staff must be established and implemented prior to return to practice (other than the “[p]hysical conditioning, practice, skill-building, and training that can be conducted outdoors, with 6 feet of physical distancing, and within stable cohorts” that is currently authorized in all tiers).
    • This includes baseline testing and ongoing screening testing.  Based on current evidence and standards, both daily antigen testing and periodic PCR testing are acceptable testing methods for both baseline and ongoing screening testing.
      • If following a daily antigen testing protocol, the protocol must begin with a PCR test followed by daily antigen testing. Any positive antigen test must trigger a PCR test for confirmation. PCR testing is required for symptomatic athletes and staff and should be conducted within 24 hours of symptoms being reported.
  • For high-risk contact sports (basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, rugby, soccer, squash, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling), competition between teams is permitted only if the team can provide COVID-19 testing and results of all athletes and support staff within 48 hours of each competition.

Return to Play Safety Plan

  • A school must adopt, and its teams follow (or if a team operates independent from a school, the team must adopt and follow) a school-specific (or team-specific, as applicable) ‘return to play’ safety plan.
  • Consistent with requirements imposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), athletes are not required to waive their legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation.
  • In conjunction with local public health officials and contact tracers, schools (or teams, as applicable) must have in place a mechanism for notifying other schools (or teams, as applicable) should an athlete from one team test positive within 48 hours after competition with another team.
  • A school (or team, as applicable) must evaluate the availability of, and accessibility to, local contact tracing resources. Where the availability of local contact tracing resources is inadequate, schools (or a team, as applicable) must train on-site personnel or procure contact tracing resources. 

Site Specific Plan 

  • A school (or if a team operates independent from a school, the team) must establish a written, facility-specific COVID-19 prevention plan at every facility, perform a comprehensive risk assessment of all work and athletic areas, and designate a person at each facility to implement the plan.
  • A school (or if a team, operates independent from a school, the team) must designate a person responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns for athletics overall, and for each team or sport, as applicable. 
  • A school (or if a team operates independent from a school, the team) must train and communicate with workers, worker representatives (as applicable), and athletes on the plan and make the plan available to workers and their representatives.
  • A school (or if a team operates independent from a school, the team) must regularly evaluate the facility for compliance with the plan and document and correct deficiencies identified.

Other Individual Control and Screening

  • A school (or if a team operates independent from a school, the team) must provide symptom and health screenings for all workers and athletes entering the facility or event. Make sure the temperature/symptom screener avoids close contact with workers or athletes to the extent possible. 
  • If requiring self-screening at home, which is an appropriate alternative to providing it at the establishment, the school (or team, as appropriate) must ensure that screening was performed prior to the worker or athlete leaving home and follows CDC guidelines.

Isolation and Quarantine

  • To participate in moderate- and high-contact sports practice or competition, a school (or if a team operates independent from a school, the team), athletes must commit to adherence with appropriate isolation and quarantine procedures.
  • All symptomatic athletes and staff must remain in isolation until test results are available, and repeat testing should be considered if initial testing is negative and symptoms continue and are consistent with COVID-19 symptoms.
  • All athletes and staff who test positive or are clinically diagnosed with COVID-19 disease must isolate: 
  • For 10 days after symptoms first appeared (or 10 days after specimen collection for their first positive test), AND
  • At least 24 hours have passed with no fever (without use of fever-reducing medications), AND
  • Other symptoms have improved.
  • Individuals who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 but never develop symptoms, may return to work or school 10 days after the date of specimen collection for their first positive test for SARS-CoV-2. 
  • Individuals identified as close contacts (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) must follow state and local public health directives or orders for quarantine, regardless of the frequency of testing for those in the cohort or footprint. Close contacts must quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure.
  • Due to the nature of athletic participation, schools (or teams, as applicable) must take steps to assist with the contact tracing process including, but not limited to, film review of practice, if available, and extended assessment of contact associated with athletic participation so that all athlete contacts can be identified.

Travel for Competition

  • When traveling to away games, teams must remain in a team cohort, with no mixing with the local teams or other members of the host community.

These strict testing rules are for indoor low-contact sports, indoor moderate-contact sports, and indoor high-contact sports. Which sports fall into which categories are listed below. To avoid the rigorous testing protocols from the Institutions of Higher Education Guidance, counties must be in the orange tier of COVID-19 cases for indoor low-contact sports and the yellow tier for indoor moderate-contact sports and indoor high-contact sports. If indoor sports are played before counties get into those tiers in adherence with the Institutions of Higher Education Guidance, fans will not be allowed to attend games.

Indoor low-contact sports (Orange tier)

  • Badminton (singles)
  • Bowling
  • Curling
  • Dance (no contact)
  • Gymnastics
  • Ice skating (individual)
  • Physical training
  • Pickleball (singles)
  • Swimming and diving
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Track and field

Indoor moderate-contact sports (Yellow tier)

  • Badminton (doubles)
  • Cheerleading
  • Dance (intermittent contact)
  • Dodgeball
  • Kickball
  • Pickleball (doubles)
  • Racquetball
  • Squash
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Volleyball

Indoor high-contact sports (Yellow tier)

  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Ice hockey
  • Ice skating (pairs)
  • Martial arts
  • Roller derby
  • Soccer
  • Water polo
  • Wrestling

CIF INTERPRETATION OF GUIDELINES

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