OC Outdoor Sports Resume Today, Experts Say Vaccines Key to Staying Open, Fighting Off Coronavirus Mutations

Outdoor football, baseball, basketball, soccer and rugby can resume in Orange County today, following a decline in coronavirus hospitalizations and infection rates.  

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Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that counties with less than an average of 14 new cases per 100,000 residents can let people play organized football, soccer, rugby, water polo, baseball and a host of other outdoor sports. 

As of Friday, OC is averaging roughly 12 cases per 100,000 on a week-long average.

Newsom’s reinstatement of outdoor sports comes after calls from parents, athletes and numerous groups to revise public health guidelines so people can play games again. 

It also comes as a recall petition against Newsom is gaining momentum and might soon be on a ballot. 

The state guidelines call for regular testing in certain sports.

“Weekly testing will be required for football, rugby and water polo participants age 13 and over in counties with a case rate between 7 and 14 per 100,000. Weekly testing, either antigen or PCR, is required for all participants and coaches in these sports, with results made available within 24 hours of competition,” reads the guidelines. 

A late Thursday news release from county officials noted the potential risks playing sports.

“Youth and adult sports include varied activities that have different levels of risk for transmission of COVID-19 depending on the physical contact between players. Outdoor activities that allow for consistent wearing of face coverings and physical distancing are lower risk than indoor activities that involve close contact between participants and high exertion that increases spread of exhaled particles,” reads the news release. 

UCI epidemiologist and director of the university’s Infectious Disease Science Initiative, Sanghyuk Shin disagreed with the approach, saying it’s too early to resume activities like sports because not enough people have been vaccinated yet while virus variants are emerging in Southern California. 

“I absolutely disagree with where that’s headed. I think as the trends go down, like I said the rate is still much higher than what we would like. Kind of loosening up and allowing more activities, like sports, I think it’s much premature to do that,” Shin said in a Friday phone interview. 

Shin said public health measures need to be kept in order to avoid another potential spike because the variants may be more infectious, although more research needs to be done.

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