By Jordan Green
After months of waiting for a return, several counties and school districts can now prepare for upcoming high school and youth athletic seasons
With the adjusted state guidelines that the California Department of Public Health and Gov. Gavin Newsome announced Friday morning, several high school and youth sports programs were given a far clearer path towards a potential return to competition.
Following intense pressure from advocacy groups such as the parent-driven Let Them Play CA, the CDPH adjusted its colored tier system to be far less restrictive. Under those adjustments, outdoor, high-contact sports such as football, water polo and soccer can be played in red (substantial risk) and purple (widespread risk) tiers, compared to previous restrictions when those sports could only compete in the orange tier (moderate risk).
Starting Feb. 26, these types of outdoor sports can be played in counties with an “adjusted case rate equal to or less than 14 per 100,000.” Along with this, programs will need to commit to regular weekly testing, something that Newsom stated in his press conference will be paid for by the state.
As of now, 19 counties are below the 14 cases per 100,000 residents rate in the state, meaning sports within those counties — with the approval of their school districts and counties — can begin regular sports activities. And while several counties remain above that threshold, including Los Angeles County which is set at 17.6 per 100,000 according to CDPH, it is expected that these regions should meet those requirements soon.
With this, while sports such as football are close to a full return, several athletic departments will need to figure out the scheduling of their season. With the approval process for these guidelines likely taking several weeks, several football teams — who were supposed to begin their season in December or January — will likely see their season’s end date moved back to late April or early May, which could potentially disrupt the Fall 2021 season.
Nevertheless, these sorts of complications fail to outshine the significance of these newly-assigned guidelines, and several coaches in the San Gabriel Valley will see this morning as an important step towards a return to normalcy.
“Yeah, it’s the best news we’ve heard in a long time,” South Hills baseball coach and athletic director Darren Murphy told the SGV Tribune. “The kids are excited and we’ve been telling the kids to stay ready. We’ve got some work to do still but this is exciting for sure.”
Friday’s developments, however, do not seem to help indoor sports such as basketball, volleyball and wrestling. These sports will remain in the most restrictive tier and will unlikely get to play during the spring season. Newsom noted that while the state is seeking to help indoor sports return to play, that notion is a “separate conversation and more complicated.”
Nevertheless, if you ask CIF State commissioner Ron Nocetti, CDPH’s new guidance should not discourage athletes who play indoor sports. Instead, it should motivate them, as it is proof that the state is doing what it can to allow them to compete in a safe environment.
“They (state officials) listened to a variety of their constituents across the state, and today provided a positive path forward,” Nocetti said. “We’re not done yet, as numbers continue to improve hopefully things improve for indoor sports as well.”