California Loosens Restrictions on High-Contact Youth Sports like Water Polo

The California Department of Public Health has updated its guidelines for youth and high school sports in the state, adjusting where sports fall in its color tier system.

Specifically, high-contact outdoor sports like football, water polo, and soccer are now allowed in red (substantial risk) or purple (widespread risk) tiers in the state’s COVID-19 reopening system, though there will be restrictions. Previously, those sports were not allowed until a county reached the orange tier (moderate risk).

For these outdoor high-contact sports to be allowed in countries in the red and purple tiers, those counties must have a case rate below 14 per 100,000 residents per day.

A weekly testing component for participants aged 13 and older is required with these sports being allowed to resume in counties with a new daily case rate between 7 and 14 per 100,000 residents.

After a dramatic decrease in new cases from the state’s peak in mid-January, the state average of new positive tests over the last 7 days is 19 per 100,000 residents. According to New York Times data, 36 of California’s 58 counties still have new daily positive test rates higher than 14 per 100,000, but most of those counties are trending rapidly toward being below that threshold by the time the new rules take effect on February 26.

The national average over the last week is about 22 new cases per 100,000 residents, though extreme weather across much of the country has likely suppressed testing efforts.

California Risk Tiers, from highest risk to lowest risk:

  • Purple (highest risk)
  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow (lowest risk)

The news comes as the state begins to re-open schools to hybrid and in-person education in many parts of the state based on current COVID-19 data.

Most indoor sports, with volleyball being the primary exception (moving to the orange tier from the red tier), remain in the “yellow” tier when played indoors.

Counties have the right to alter the guidelines, but only in one direction: making them stricter.

Among aquatic sports, outdoor swimming & diving were allowed under all tiers when competed outdoors in a state where most competitive aquatics facilities are outside. Indoor swimming & diving remains in the orange tier.

The CIF released a new high school sports plan earlier this week that includes two CIF seasons.

One, running from January to April, includes competitive cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, gymnastics, skiing/snowboarding, girls volleyball and water polo. A second season, running from March through June, will include badminton, baseball, basketball, competitive sport cheer, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, boys volleyball, and wrestling.

That plan was dependent on the counties where the schools were located being in a tier that allowed the above sports, which has been made easier with most of the state still in the most severe “widespread” or “purple” tier.

The NFHS, which governs most high school sports in the country, announced earlier this month the results of a study that showed “few proven cases” of “direct COVID-19 transmission during athletics.”

Several groups, most prominently one called Let Them Play California, have emerged to protest the lockdown on youth athletics in the state.

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Swim&Polo Dad
2 months ago

Great news. Finally. The Let Them Play CA was instrumental in driving this, congrats to that team. Also, two kids sued Newsom and San Diego County under the equal protection clause. As pros and college sports are allowed to play, so should youth and recreational sports. They won on Friday, and all sports can begin in San Diego County, indoor sports, too.

Swim&Polo Dad
2 months ago

“The CIF released a new high school sports plan earlier this week that includes two CIF seasons.

One, running from January to April, includes competitive cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, gymnastics, skiing/snowboarding, girls volleyball and water polo. A second season, running from March through June, will include badminton, baseball, basketball, competitive sport cheer, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, boys volleyball, and wrestling.”

Though still posted on their site, those “seasons” are a hold over from an announcement months ago, pre Newsom’s lockdown. While I’ve not seen anything definitive since the announcement on Friday, the seasons are planned to be more closely aligned with the tier levels. For example, golf, cross country, tennis, swimming… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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