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High School Sports Allowed To Resume As COVID-19 Case Rates Decline In California

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — High school sports can now resume, even if their home counties remain in the purple, or widespread, tier of reopening, under new guidelines released by the California Department of Public Health.

"Man, it feels good coming back," said Kyron Ware-Hudson, a senior receiver on the Mater Dei High School football team. "Putting the pads for the first time. Especially being the receiver. I was excited it felt really good. I can't wait to get after it."

The new guidance covers all organized school and community-sponsored programs and privately organized clubs and leagues for both youth and adult sports.

"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," Dr. Tomas Aragon, State Public Health Officer and director of the California Department Of Public Health said in a statement.

The move comes as California has been accelerating its efforts to reopen schools. Los Angeles County officials last week said case rates had improved to the point that elementary schools could reopen and Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that the state would reserve 10% of vaccine supplies for teachers as of March 1.

"We are now confident with new guidelines we're publishing today that we could get youth sports moving again in the state of California, get competition moving again in the state of California with, as always, caveats," Newsom said during a COVID-19 briefing.

High school sports are up and running again in Orange County
ALISO VIEJO, CA - FEBRUARY 06: High School cross-country track runners warm up before competing on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Mindy Schauer/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

The new guidelines stipulate that outdoor high-contact sports can be played in counties with COVID-19 case rates at or below 14 per 100,000. Because they are more likely to be played unmasked, with close, face-to-face contact of more than 15 minutes, football, basketball, rugby, and water polo players over the age of 13 will be required to submit to weekly COVID-19 tests, with results made available within 24 hours of competition.

"We have been jumping over bags and running up and down the field since last August, you gotta be an awfully tough kid to put up with that," said Bruce Rollinson, Mater Dei head football coach. "They deserve to see this great football team cause I got a race car and we're gonna go racing real soon."

Sports played outdoors with moderate contact – including baseball, cheerleading, and softball – can proceed without weekly testing, officials said.

"I tell the girls before each race you know nothing is guaranteed, covid could get worse, our season could get canceled midway so just race it like it's your last," said Tait Vigeland, captain of the Mater Dei varsity girls cross country team.

The guidelines require teams to provide information about risk to all the parents and guardians of minors who participate in sports, and they will be required to sign an informed consent acknowledging the risk.

"We always came together as a team social distance and still working out together still keeping that team bond which is very good for us," added Ware-Hudson.

Teams playing in less restrictive sports tiers are still strongly encouraged to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines, including wearing masks, physical distancing, and maintaining hand hygiene.

Orange County schools will likely start their seasons earlier than schools in Los Angeles County where case rates could stay higher for longer.

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