State lifts Covid ban on high school football, basketball and other sports

Gov. Gavin Newsom, facing the prospect of a recall, today loosened the rules for high school sports, allowing all outdoor sports to resume in counties in 27 of the state’s 58 counties including Santa Clara and San Mateo.

This clears the way for sports like baseball, softball, gymnastics and cheerleading to resume Feb. 26.

High-contact outdoor sports such as football, basketball and rugby can also resume under that standard, but only if all coaches and players 13 and older get tested once a week. Test results must be available within 24 hours of competition.

Newsom said the state will pay for the tests. The new guidelines were developed in partnership with organizations large and small, including the Let Them Play coalition, the governor said, thanking them “for their strong advocacy.”

“We are now confident with new guidelines we are publishing today we can get youth sports moving again in the state of California,” Newsom said.

Newsom made his announcement just two days after recall organizers said they had obtained 1.5 million signatures to force a vote on whether the governor ought to be removed from office.

The recall effort started before the pandemic as a response to Newsom’s approach to crime, homelessness and the economy. They have since seized on Newsom’s response to the pandemic, pointing to business and school closures.

The rules Newsom announced today apply to all organized sports for kids and adults, including schools and community-sponsored programs. It does not apply to collegiate or professional sports or “community events,” which include marathons and other endurance races.

All coaches and spectators will be required to wear masks. It says athletes should wear masks when not participating, such as when they are sitting on the sidelines.

Sports can resume in counties where Covid-19 case rates are at or below 14 people per 100,000. San Mateo County’s rate is 9.6 and Santa Clara’s is 10.9. A total of 27 counties currently have case rates at or below 14.

An additional 16 counties have case rates between 14 and 20, and could soon meet the new standard. That includes Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno counties.

Dr. Tomas Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health, said state officials loosened the rules because case rates and hospitalizations are declining across the state.

“Youth sports are important to our children’s physical and mental health, and our public health approach has worked to balance those benefits against Covid-19 risks,” he said. — From staff and wire reports

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