Friday night lights are set to return to high school stadiums sooner than expected as new state guidelines released Thursday now allow for football to resume with strict testing and other requirements.
The update specifies that all sports teams can return to competition earlier than otherwise authorized under the previous guidance, which was issued on Feb. 19, but only if they adhere to the stricter requirements in place for college teams.
The previous guidelines stated that high- and moderate-contact sports such as football, soccer and water polo could only be played in counties with an adjusted daily case rate of 14 or fewer per 100,000 residents. The new guidelines allow for all sports to be played in counties even if the daily case rate is higher than 14 per 100,000 if the schools follow the same requirements as college teams.
Stanislaus County’s most recent adjusted case rate was 15.7 per 100,000.
The new requirements include regular periodic COVID-19 testing of athletes and support staff, providing negative test results of all athletes and support staff within 48 hours of each competition, school plans for contact tracing and quarantining, if needed.
All athletes and staff who test positive or are clinically diagnosed with COVID-19 disease must isolate:
· For 10 days after symptoms first appeared (or 10 days after specimen collection for their first positive test);
· At least 24 hours have passed with no fever (without use of fever-reducing medications); and
· Other symptoms have improved.
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 but never develop symptoms, can return to work or school 10 days after the date of specimen collection for their first positive test.
Individuals identified as close contacts (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) must follow state and local public health directives or orders for quarantine, regardless of the frequency of testing for those in the cohort or footprint. Close contacts must quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure.
The guidelines also state that when traveling to away games, teams must remain in a team cohort, with no mixing with the local teams or other members of the host community.
Low-contact sports — including boys tennis, girls golf, cross country and swim — started play mid-February. The Central California Athletic League, which includes both Turlock and Pitman high schools, had released a tentative schedule of football games for a six-week season starting March 19 — which previously could only happen if the adjusted case rate lowered to 14 or fewer. With the new guidelines, that schedule is now moving forward, according to CCAL Commissioner Ed Felt.
The new guidelines also now allow for indoor sports like volleyball and basketball to resume play under the college requirements, and Felt said the CCAL is looking into the viability a schedule of games for those sports this spring.
“Things are changing every day,” Felt said.