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California loosens rules for youth sports, San Diego currently doesn’t qualify

Counties need a case rate at or below 14 per 100,000. Currently, San Diego County is ineligible to start youth sports due to the case rate being 22.2 in the county.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif — The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released updated guidance for youth and recreational adult sports. Under the updated guidance, outdoor high-contact and moderate-contact sports competitions may resume in the Red (Substantial) tier and the Purple (Widespread) tier, with modifications, including testing requirements for certain outdoor high contact sports. 

Counties in the purple and red tiers also need a case rate at or below 14 per 100,000. Currently, San Diego County is ineligible to start youth sports due to the case rate being 22.2 in the county.

In an update on Thursday, officials released these numbers to show where the county stands.

Credit: San Diego County

"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.”

Weekly testing will be required for football, rugby and water polo participants age 13 and over in counties with a case rate between 7 and 14 per 100,000. Weekly testing is required for all participants and coaches in these sports, with results made available within 24 hours of competition. Football, rugby and water polo are high-contact sports that are likely to be played unmasked, with close, face-to-face contact exceeding 15 minutes.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher released a statement after the governor announced the change, “We have seen considerable progress on vaccines and lower cases, and this is a positive step forward in our recovery. I applaud Governor Newsom and commend Ron Gladnick who has been a great partner in working with my office, the Governor and our public health experts to see progress in the effort to let our kids play.” Nathan Fletcher Chair, Board of Supervisors County of San Diego.”

Outdoor moderate-contact sports, such as baseball, cheerleading and softball, can be played in these counties without the testing requirement.

Due to the nature and risk of transmission, while participating in these sports, teams must provide information regarding risk to all parents/guardians of minors participating, and each parent shall sign an informed consent indicating their understanding and acknowledgment of the risks.

Any teams playing in a less restrictive sports tier are strongly encouraged to follow the steps outlined in the guidance to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This includes wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, and appropriate hand hygiene and equipment sanitation.

At 2 p.m. in Vista, a judge will hold a hearing to consider a lawsuit filed by two San Diego-area high school athletes to lift the State of California’s ban on youth sports.

The students’ lawsuit states “there is no medical evidence that competing in team sports is safe for college and/or professional athletes but not high school athletes.”

“Governor Newsom has favored professional sports and colleges and allowed them to play sports, but he has denied the same right to youths who are being irreparably harmed through his unequal application of the law,” said Brad Hensley, founder of Let Them Play CA, a group of 60,000+ student-athletes, parents and coaches in California fighting the ban on youth sports.

“We are hopeful that the court will determine that Gov. Newsom’s ban on youth sports is unconstitutional,” Hensley added. “We hope the lawsuit demonstrates to the court the State’s ban is arbitrary, irrational, and bears no relation to reducing the spread of, or remediating the risks posed by, COVID-19.”

It is unknown how Friday's announcement by the governor will impact this hearing.

Gov. Newsom gives update on COVID-19 including changes to youth sports on February 19, 2020: