CALIFORNIA, USA — An attorney who helped win a temporary restraining order allowing high school and youth sports to resume in San Diego County amid the coronavirus pandemic said Sunday that his firm would be filing similar lawsuits in other California counties this week.
"We will be filing similar lawsuits in Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Bernardino, and other counties this coming week to ensure all youths have the same right to play sports -- indoor and outdoor -- as professional athletes do," said Stephen Grebing of the firm Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie.
On Friday -- hours after the state revised its guidelines to allow certain sports activities in counties with relatively low rates of new COVID-19 cases -- San Diego Superior Court Judge Earl H. Maas III agreed with the plaintiffs in his written ruling that young athletes were not at greater risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 than their professional or collegiate counterparts.
Maas briefly referenced the new guidelines issued by the state, but wrote that "competent evidence was not provided to the court in this regard" at Friday's hearing and thus he declined "to anticipate what the (state) `may' do in the coming week."
Grebing called the ruling "an important victory that goes above and beyond Governor Newsom's announcement allowing only outdoor youth sports starting next week."
He said it will be difficult for Newsom to appeal because the state presented no medical evidence of any COVID-19 dangers to youths and in an appeal only the original facts can be disputed.
The state's new standard allows for a resumption of "outdoor high-contact sports" in counties that reach an adjusted daily average of 14 new cases per 100,000 residents. San Diego County currently has a rate of 22.2 cases per 100,000 residents.
However, through the lawsuit filed by two San Diego-area high school athletes, Maas granted a temporary restraining order allowing high school and youth sports to resume in San Diego County "as long as the(y) follow the same or similar COVID-19 protocols imposed for competition in professional and/or collegiate sports within the county."
Maas heard arguments Friday afternoon from attorneys representing the state, county and the two student athletes. He wrote that he was not persuaded by arguments from the state and county that professional and collegiate teams represented a lower risk of spreading the virus due to their being far fewer pro and college teams.
"The game is the same, the risk of spread is similar, the youth are already practicing and with school closures or limitations on attendance, youth are isolated," Maas wrote.
Another hearing is slated for early next month on a preliminary injunction in the case, which was filed on behalf of Nicholas Gardinera, a senior at Scripps Ranch High School, and Cameron Woolsey, a senior at Mission Hills High School.
Under the state guidelines, resuming football, rugby and water polo will also require weekly COVID-19 testing of players -- aged 13 and above -- and coaches, with test results made available within 24 hours of a competition. Newsom said the state would absorb the cost of the required testing.
The guidance applies to all forms of organized youth sports, including school and community programs, and private clubs and leagues.
Newsom said the combination of school closures and the inability for youth to participate in sports has had both a physical and mental health impact, "in profound and significant and in many cases deleterious ways." He said the downward trends in COVID cases in California prompted the state to move forward with a resumption of youth sports.
"We are now confident ... that we can get youth sports moving again in the state of California, get competition moving again in the state of California with, as always, caveats," he said. "None of us are naive. ... Despite those very encouraging trends, we still need to be cautious until we reach herd immunity."