Thousands of California youth are celebrating a long-awaited return to the field after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a loosening of restrictions that will allow athletes a chance to play this spring.
Newsom, working closely with the California Department of Public Health, laid out a new directive that allows for outdoor high contact sports such as football and soccer to be played if the county they reside in has a COVID-19 infection rate of 14 or fewer per 100,000 residents. There are 27 counties in the state that meet that requirement, including all Bay Area counties. An additional 16 counties have case rates between 14 and 20 people per 100,000 and could meet the new standard soon if case rates continue to decline. Those counties include Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno.
The plan calls for youth football and soccer players (and coaches) over the age of 13 to be tested for COVID each week, with the tests paid for by the state.
The ruling, which applies to youth and adult athletes alike, also allows for moderate contact sports such as baseball and softball, previously classified as red tier sports, to also play this spring with no testing requirements. Indoor high contact sports including basketball, volleyball and wrestling are still not allowed under the new ruling and remain on hold.
The guidance requires all coaches and spectators to wear masks and calls for all athletes to wear masks when not participating, such as when they’re on the sidelines.
The announcement came just days after Newsom met with youth and high school representatives, including members of the “Let Them Play” coalition, advocating for the safe return of most sports to our communities.
Although the reaction to Friday’s announcement was overwhelmingly positive, the challenge of putting the new plan into action is not lost on high school administrators.
“We’re all still trying to figure this out and we’ll need guidance from the county, California Interscholastic Federation, North Coast Section and our league before we have answers,” Analy Director of Athletics Joe Ellwood said. “We have an Athletic Director’s meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 23) and our league has called an emergency principal's meeting for next week as well. I'll have more info after Tuesday's meeting.”
The current plan already in place allows purple tier low contact sports; cross country, boys tennis and girls golf to practice and begin abbreviated seasons in March. Other sports like swimming, track and field, girls tennis and boys golf will start their seasons in April.