State Health Guidelines Announced for Return of Indoor High School Sports

Buchanan senior and three-time State wrestling champ Maximo Renteria (in red headgear) defeats Clovis’ Justin Mouritsen in “The Big One,” from Feb. 6, 2020. (Gabe Camarillo/Clovis Roundup)

The California Department of Public Health released an updated set of youth sports guidelines Thursday, Mar. 4 evening, allowing high school indoor sports to be played under a stringent set of rules implemented at the college level.

The updated guidance came in response to a legal settlement reached on Thursday morning that impacted all indoor and outdoor youth sports throughout the State of California.

A lawsuit was filed Jan. 28 on behalf of two San Diego-area seniors — Nicholas Gardinera and Cameron Woolsey — targeting the State for allowing collegiate and professional sports to be played while barring youth and high school sports.

Thursday’s legal settlement opened the doors for all high school sports, indoor and outdoor, to play under the same COVID-19 threshold — 14 cases per 100,000 people in each county.

The new set of youth sports guidelines confirmed this while noting that “a team in any sport, including indoor sports, may return to competition and contact practice at any time (i.e., earlier than otherwise authorized by this Guidance) if the team adheres the additional requirements imposed on collegiate sports.”

Questions regarding whether this wording involves outdoor high-contact sports like football, which has already been cleared for weekly testing, remain. No clarification has been provided by the CDPH at this time.

These requirements included “regular periodic testing of athletes and support staff” for COVID-19, specifically baseline and screening testing. The CDPH recommended weekly PCR tests followed by daily antigen tests for this requirement.

High-risk contact sports such as basketball, football, soccer, volleyball and wrestling require COVID-19 testing and results completed within 48 hours of competition. If an athlete tests positive, they must isolate for 10 days, no matter if they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.

The updated youth sports guidance asks schools to create their own “return to play safety plan” and adopt a contact tracing process should an athlete test positive for COVID-19.

Face coverings will be required from athletes, coaches and observers at all times during games and the CDPH still recommends that observers are limited to the immediate household members of athletes. Health screenings will be required of every person who enters the facility on game day.

Local counties and school districts will have the final say on whether its schools will play indoor sports following Thursday’s legal settlement. If they choose to do so, schools will conduct COVID-19 testing through an insurance provider or a private company willing to provide free tests, as the Mercury News reported. This differs from outdoor high-contact sports, which are covered by the State.

A month ago, Red and Orange tier sports like basketball, football and baseball were shuttered.

But sheer willpower of athletes, coaches and parents scored the “Let Them Play” movement’s first victory on Feb. 19, when the CDPH moved high school football, soccer and water polo into the purple tier.

Schools now have basketball, volleyball and wrestling seasons to prepare for, once their district and county give the go-ahead.

California has let them play.

Gabriel Camarillo
Gabriel Camarillo has written for the Clovis Roundup since August 2019 and follows high school athletics, Fresno State football and former Clovis Unified student-athletes. Gabe also writes for The Collegian as a staff sports writer and works at One Putt Broadcasting as a board op for 940 ESPN radio.