State eases restrictions on Youth Sports amid COVID concerns

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Youth competition in sports such as football and basketball could resume sooner than anticipated in San Diego County, with the state Friday revising its guidelines to allowing the activities in counties with relatively low rates of new COVID-19 cases.

The 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.

Counties that reach the 14-case threshold will be able to resume basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, rowing/crew, soccer and water polo.

Resuming football, rugby and water polo will also require weekly COVID testing of players — aged 13 and above — and coaches, with test results made available within 24 hours of a competition. Gov. Gavin 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.”

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the county was ready and waiting to resume youth sports safely.

“We have seen considerable progress on vaccines and lower cases, and this is a positive step forward in our recovery,” he said. “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.”

Gladnick is the head football coach of Torrey Pines High School and has been a vocal advocate for letting youth sports resume. He sent a tweet thanking Fletcher, Supervisor Jim Desmond and former Republican candidate for governor John Cox for working across ideological lines on the issue.

“It’s awesome when people can put small differences aside to serve a higher purpose like kids,” he wrote.

The guidance encourages, but does not mandate, vaccinations for athletes, coaches and staff.

It also maintains previous guidance limiting spectators to immediate household members, with limits on overall numbers to ensure physical distancing.

Despite the announcement, a lawsuit recently filed by two San Diego- area high school athletes to resume youth sports statewide continues through the courts.

Attorneys from the state, San Diego County and those representing Nicholas Gardinera, a senior at Scripps Ranch High School, and Cameron Woolsey, a senior at Mission Hills High School, argued before a San Diego Superior Court judge Friday afternoon.

Stephen Grebing, representing the students, argued that California student athletes have been barred from participating in athletic activities without adequate medical evidence to support the restrictions. He alleged there have not been any studies supporting that close-contact sports increase the spread of COVID-19.

In their lawsuit, the students challenge the notion that high school sports cannot resume statewide while professional and college athletes have been allowed to keep playing games.

Deputy Attorney General Darin Wessel, representing the state, said that professional and collegiate teams comprise a smaller number of athletes and often have financial resources and staff to handle outbreaks that schools typically lack, making for “a lower potential impact on the state’s medical resources and the health care system should an outbreak occur.”

San Diego Superior Court Judge Earl H. Maas III is expected to issue a ruling in the coming weeks on a temporary restraining order request to halt shutdown orders related to youth sports.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local San Diego News