California Loosens COVID Restrictions, Allows Inter-Team Competitions

As of January 25th, Governor Gavin Newson has lifted California’s stay-at-home order, which has been in effect since early December 2020. The 4-tier reopening system (that delegates COVID safety restrictions based on each county’s virus conditions) allows inter-team competitions to start up again as long as they follow COVID-19 safety precautions.

Newsom says this decision was based on four-week ICU projections which predict California’s ICU capacities to reach the following numbers by February 21st:

  • Bay Area: 25%
  • Greater Sacramento: 27.3%
  • Northern California: 18.9%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 22.3%
  • Southern California: 33.3%
  • California: 30.3%

As of January 23rd, the available ICU bed capacity numbers (reported by the LA Times) stood at:

  • Bay Area: 8.2%
  • Greater Sacramento: 9.9%
  • Northern California: 47.9%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 0%
  • Southern California: 0%

Lifting the stay-at-home order impacts USA Swimming’s largest Local Swimming Committee (LSC), Southern California Swimming, and its 3rd largest LSC, Pacific Swimming in Northern California. The latest available data (from 2019) shows Southern California Swimming had 181 registered year-round clubs and Pacific Swimming was home to 126 clubs.

Irvine, located in Orange County, was set to host one of three locations for the January 2021 Pro Swim Series until Southern California became and continued to be one of the country’s largest COVID-19 hotspots. In the last week of December, Orange County reported an average of 3,642 new cases daily (93.3-per-100,00). In response, the statewide stay-at-home order was extended and USA Swimming dropped Irvine as a host site. 

The California Department of Public Health has stated that inter-team competitions (between two teams) may resume starting January 25th as long as they follow safety precautions including wearing masks, 6 feet apart physical distancing, and hygiene and equipment sanitation. This status is “subject to change at any given time due to the level of COVID-19 transmission in California.”

The CDPH also stated that exceptions to the rule of the 2-team-only competitions “may be made, with authorization from the local health department, for the following sports where individual competitors from multiple teams are routine: track and field; cross-country; golf; skiing/snowboarding; tennis; and swimming/diving.”

Last week, dozens of “let them play” protests that took place across California in which people called for the state to resume youth sports. Since California’s high school swimming and diving seasons are in the spring, this might allow high schools to have a competition season this year.

This loosening of COVID-19 restrictions is also a sigh of relief for California college swimming and diving programs that have not canceled their 2020-2021 seasons due to the pandemic. This list includes at least 10 Division I programs (California Baptist University, California Polytechnic State University, Cal State Bakersfield, Loyola Marymount University, Pepperdine University, San Diego State, San Jose State, Stanford, Cal Berkley, UCLA, and UC Santa Barbara), and at least 3 Division II programs (Biola University, Concordia University Irvine, and Fresno Pacific University.) 

SCIAC, which contains 9 of the 11 Division III swimming and diving programs in California, canceled the remainder of their 2020-2021 season in December. However, this may be able to provide opportunities to train safely or compete in small intrasquad meets to the schools that have lost their swimming and diving season if they have open campuses, depending on each school’s athletic department rules.

The stay-at-home order was issued for California counties with ICU bed capacities less than 15%. Now, the 4-tier reopening system that California will abide by is divided into tiers ranging from least serious to most serious virus conditions: 

  • yellow (minimal spread) – Less than 1 daily new case per 100,000 residents or less than 2% positivity
  • orange (moderate spread) – 1 to 3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 residents or 2 – 4.9% positivity
  • red (substantial spread) – 4 to 7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents or 5-8% positivity 
  • purple (widespread) – counties with more than 7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents or higher than 8% positivity 

At this stage, freshly out of the stay-at-home order, nearly all counties will start in the widespread (purple) tier with the most safety precautions.

Over the past 14 days, California has seen a 39% decrease in COVID-19 cases according to data reported by the New York Times. Last week the average amount of daily cases was set at 25,576 and on January 24th there were 21,680 new cases reported. 

Based on data collected over the past 7 days, Orange County has a daily case average of 1,889 or 59 per 100,00 people. In Northern California, San Francisco has a daily case average of 208 or 24 per 100,000 people.

When it comes to ICU bed capacity, nearly one-third of Orange County hospitals are still at 0% as of January 25th. Another 9 hospitals have less than 10% ICU capacity, 4 have less than 20% ICU capacity, and 2 hospitals are sitting at about 40% ICU capacity.

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1 month ago

Gavinor Newsom feeling that pressure of that impending referendum! Gotta make the people happy by not destroying their lives/livelihoods i guess.

Ya live and ya learn.

Reply to  Questionable
1 month ago

That’s exactly what it is. Boy doesn’t want to get recalled so he’s giving the mommies and daddies what they want despite the low ICU capacity in SoCal.

Spineless politician. I may agree with the move but it doesn’t make him any less spineless.

Reply to  Joy
1 month ago

Honestly, I don’t really understand how SoCal is going to improve 33.3% in 4 weeks. I’m not trying to say it won’t happen but it would be nice if somebody could explain to me what is going to change to warrant such a significant uptick in ICU capacity.

Reply to  DistanceSwimmer
1 month ago

Agree – need at least several months to give the vaccinations time to work; currently with only seniors and health professionals qualifying to receive it, it’s going to be a long slow climb. That said, I do feel that swimming is a relatively lower-risk sport, so I’m happy to see that our high school competition season may be able to take place.

Reply to  DistanceSwimmer
1 month ago

Orange County went from 545 to 445 icu cases in a pretty short period of time and total hospitalizations were 2200+ down to 1600+. I’m not sure about LA county but OC shouldn’t have any trouble meeting that metric. The hospitalization decline trails the decline in new cases which has dropped around 40% in two weeks.

cynthia curran
Reply to  Taa
1 month ago

More of the cases were in Anaheim/Santa Ana which tends to be poorer cities in Orange County. In fact, the best news is when Disneyland opens up since lots of people are employed at Disneyland and the hotels in the area.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Questionable
1 month ago

1.2 million recall signatures and counting will clear your mind 🙂

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Irish Ringer
1 month ago

This decision by him should not stop his recall. In fact, it should embolden it!!

Swim&Polo Dad
Reply to  Questionable
1 month ago

All he did was throw the masses a bone by allowing purple tier sports. Promised an update to the tier system today, but the CDPH didn’t update anything during their press conference. Let Them Play CA has over 50k facebook group members, and most are pissed, as they were hoping for some movement for all sports.

47 other states are allowing most, if not all high school sports to play, and play safely. Not California. Equity? Not in California. Some kids are traveling to Arizona, Utah, Texas and Florida to play sports with their club teams. The kids whose parents can’t afford travel clubs, sit at home.

Swim&Polo Dad
Reply to  Swim&Polo Dad
1 month ago

A quick update, there will be no state championships, no regional/sections championships, no league championships (at least in the local HS league) and only virtual meets for our league. Hopes up, then dashed again.

Viking Man
1 month ago

Before to many crackpots get on here and get political. LA county covid center reported “The curve has flattened, however the COVID-19 pandemic is still in LA County. The coronavirus is still deadly and capable of quickly taking many lives. As L.A. County recovers, all residents, business owners and employees must continue to observe and practice all COVID-19 physical distancing requirements. “. THE CURVE HAS FLATTENED. Keep it up people, I want to play pick-up again!

Reply to  Viking Man
1 month ago

Newson made it political. No crackpots required.

1 month ago

Pure politics
Gruesome feeling the heat

The curves are flatter due to recalibrated pcr tests

Reply to  Doconc
1 month ago

We talking no more false positives for influenza? That would be nice since the flu has all but disappeared this past year.

It makes ya think doesnt it?