By Juan Reyes, Staff Reporter
The wait for most youth sports just became a lot shorter as the California Department of Public Health released an updated version of its guidance, meaning that schools and privately organized clubs or leagues could begin full contact practice and competition as early as next week.
The CDPH announced in a press release issued on Feb. 19 that outdoor high-contact sports will be allowed to play in counties that are in the purple “widespread” and red “substantial” tiers, so long as those counties have a case rate at or below 14 per 100,000 residents. Previously, those sports, which include football, boys and girls soccer, lacrosse and water polo, were only allowed to resume in counties in the orange “moderate” tier.
Santa Cruz County’s current adjusted case rate is 8.6, according to state data. That means some sports can start today with no limitations, other than testing.
According to CDPH, a weekly test will be required for football, lacrosse and water polo athletes who are 13 years old and above in counties with a case rate between 7 and 14 per 100,000.
The tests, which can be antigen or polymerase chain reaction (PCR), are required for both participants and coaches and results should be made available within 24 hours of competition.
The Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League, which for this pandemic shortened school sports season brought in all high schools in the county, had planned for the middle of March for football and volleyball to return, but the updated guidelines pushed their timeline up about two weeks. In addition, soccer, water polo and lacrosse can start running purposeful practicing instead of just conditioning in cohorts.
Plummeting cases rates has Santa Cruz County trending toward the red tier, which would allow baseball and softball to play ball. The updated guidelines will now make it easier for these programs to get started sooner rather than later. Outdoor moderate-contact sports, such as baseball, cheerleading and softball, can be played in these counties without the testing requirement. According to CDPH, due to the nature and risk of transmission while participating in these sports, teams must provide information regarding risk to all parents or guardians of minors participating. Each parent needs to sign an informed consent indicating their understanding and acknowledgement of the risks.
“Youth sports are important to our children’s physical and mental health, and our public health approach has worked to balance those benefits against Covid-19 risks,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. “With case rates and hospitalizations declining across California, we are allowing outdoor competition to resume, with modifications and steps to reduce risk, in counties where case rates are lower.”
The Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League was reportedly set to meet Tuesday to break down the details, and determine the best options for welcoming back spectators and Covid-19 testing.
According to CDPH, they stated that people with symptoms of Covid-19 or who are in isolation or quarantine for the virus are not permitted to attend practices or competitions. They also mentioned that student-athletes recovering from Covid-19 will have different paths to return to sports based on the severity of their illness.
For information and resources on what individuals can do to prevent the spread of Covid-19, visit covid19.ca.gov.