A season after all

There is new hope for the high school football season after changes in state reopening rules. File photo

The California Department of Public Health on Friday issued new guidelines on outdoor sports, pav-ing the way for more high school student-athletes who have been sidelined for nearly a year to begin competing again.

Instead of waiting for play in designated tiers, the CDPH announced football, baseball, softball, water polo and lacrosse teams could begin competition as early as Feb. 26 in counties with a per capita case rate of fewer than 14 per 100,000 residents. As of Friday, San Mateo County’s adjusted case rate is 12.8 cases for every 100,000 people. According to the state, 27 of the state’s 58 counties meet the current requirement. Contra Costa and Solano counties are the Bay Area’s only two counties above this threshold. Some Southern California counties are still above the threshold.

The new changes mean that high-contact sports no longer need to wait until the county reaches the “orange” tier, the CDPH’s labeling of a moderate risk level of positive case transmission.

However, the state is adding new regulations. The CDPH said weekly testing is required for football, rugby and water polo participants age 13 and over in counties with positive case rates between 7 and 14 per 10,000. This includes both coaches and players. Results must be available within 24 hours of competition.

Indoor sports like basketball, volleyball and wrestling are still not permitted. Along with regular test-ing, each player is required to have a signed letter of consent from a parent or guardian acknowledg-ing the risks involved.

The news comes after weeks of discussion between Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Interscholas-tic Federation, state health officials and members of the Golden State High School Football Coaches Community, an advocacy group founded in December. Let Them Play CA, a 60,000-member par-ent-backed Facebook group, also organized support for youth sports to resume this year.

“Youth sports are important to our children's physical and mental health and our public health ap-proach has worked to balance those benefits against covid-19 risks,” Dr. Tomas Aragon CDPH direc-tor and state public health officer said in a statement on Friday. "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.”

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