Following a major decline in coronavirus cases throughout the state in recent weeks, the California Department of Public Health on Friday released updated guidance for youth sports which provides a pathway for high school football and other outdoor sports to begin.
The update states that beginning Feb. 26, high- and moderate-contact sports such as football, soccer and water polo, can be played by athletes ages 13 and up in counties with an adjusted daily case rate of 14 or fewer per 100,000 residents. The new guidance also requires weekly testing for athletes and coaches.
Stanislaus County teams would not currently qualify due to the local case rate of 33.1 new COVID cases per day per 100,000. If the guidelines went into effect when announced, six of Stanislaus’ fellow counties in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section would be able to play outdoor, high-contact sports: Amador, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Tuolumne and Yolo.
The Central California Athletic League, which includes Turlock and Pitman high schools, recently created its schedule and has seen boys tennis, girls golf, cross country and swim activities resume as part of Season One. Originally included in the list of sports allowed to begin in the orange tier, CCAL Commissioner Ed Felt said he’s hoping cases in Stanislaus County continue to drop and that football is just a couple of weeks away.
CCAL football games are slated to begin on March 19, and for that to happen practice must start on March 1 to allow for two weeks of practice before competition play. Whether or not the county reaches the required number of cases by then remains to be seen.
“We’re prepared to go week by week, and what we’ve discussed is whether there’s a drop dead date,” Felt said. “What’s the minimum amount of games we’re willing to play in football to continue with our efforts?”
The last game of the planned season would be played on April 16 and would feature the league’s rivalries, including Turlock versus Pitman. In order to play that one game, practice must begin by March 29.
Felt said the league would discuss whether or not to move forward with one game, should that be the case. Water polo was originally scheduled to begin practicing as part of Season Three on March 29, but could begin sooner should case numbers fall.
“I think everyone wants to play,” he said.
Student athletes participating in one of the newly-allowed sports must provide informed consent, and football and water polo players are the only athletes who must undergo weekly testing. Turlock Unified School District is currently exploring options to test athletes weekly, Chief Communication Coordinator Marie Russell said.
“...We have already begun the process of sourcing PCR saliva rapid tests that we hope to make available to not only athletes and coaches, but students and staff who are interested in surveillance testing as well,” Russell said. “We are hopeful our community will continue to support our efforts to safely reopen our schools and help get our students on campus learning and athletes back competing.”