Santa Clara County responds to new indoor prep sports guidelines

Santa Clara County, widely known for having some of the country’s most strict COVID-19 regulations, responded immediately Friday morning to the California Department of Public Health’s updated youth sports guidelines.

“The County of Santa Clara is aligned with the state’s new guidelines for youth sports,” the county said in a one-sentence statement.

The CDPH updated its guidelines Thursday night, hours after indoor sports proponents won a legal settlement with the state of California to loosen restrictions that would allow high school sports such as basketball, volleyball and wrestling to return this spring.

The CDPH says the updates took effect Friday.

Alameda County officials said late Friday they plan to align with the state’s new guidance but will review the details to confirm that the “update doesn’t pose unacceptable additional risk to Alameda County residents and teams.”

The new guidelines require that masks be worn by youth and adult sports participants, coaches and support staff. They also state that teams must follow the rules in place at the collegiate level, such as stricter testing, contact tracing protocols and coordination with local health officials.

In an email Friday afternoon to the Bay Area News Group, a CDPH official said the college-level guidance impacts only indoor sports, plus moderate- and high-contact outdoor sports whose counties have case rates greater than 14 per 100,000. Outdoor sports in counties with lower case rates are not subject to those additional protocols.

Bay Area counties are under the 14 per 100,000 case level and most, if not all, should have an adjusted case rate of <7 per 100,000 in the next week or two, which means outdoor high-contact sports football and water polo won’t be required by the state to test in those counties.

Ron Nocetti, executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation, clarified to member schools in a memo Friday afternoon that weekly antigen or PCR testing in water polo and football are required when the adjusted case rate in their county is between 14 and 7 per 100,000.

In a news conference Thursday, Let Them Play CA founder Brad Hensley said the organization had partnered with the 11:11 COVID Project, a company Hensley said does testing for WalMart and Disney employees, to provide free PCR tests to athletes across the state.

In its updated guidelines, the CDPH summarized the college-level requirements for testing.

They are:

— Regular periodic COVID-19 testing of athletes and support staff must be established and implemented prior to return to practice (other than the “[p]hysical conditioning, practice, skill-building, and training that can be conducted outdoors, with 6 feet of physical distancing, and within stable cohorts” that is currently authorized in all tiers).

— This includes baseline testing and ongoing screening testing. Based on current evidence and standards, both daily antigen testing and periodic PCR testing are acceptable testing methods for both baseline and ongoing screening testing.

— If following a daily antigen testing protocol, the protocol must begin with a PCR test followed by daily antigen testing. Any positive antigen test must trigger a PCR test for confirmation. PCR testing is required for symptomatic athletes and staff and should be conducted within 24 hours of symptoms being reported.

— For high-risk contact sports (basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, rugby, soccer, squash, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling), competition between teams is permitted only if the team can provide COVID-19 testing and results of all athletes and support staff within 48 hours of each competition.

As the CDPH noted Friday, moderate- and high-contact outdoor sports (football, water polo and soccer, for instance) will only have to adhere to the college-level regulations if the case rate in their county is greater than 14 per 100,000.

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