SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California public health officials on Friday loosened the rules for youth sports, allowing all outdoor sports to resume in counties where COVID-19 case rates are at or below 14 people per 100,000.
The new guidance clears the way for sports like baseball, softball, gymnastics and cheerleading to resume Feb. 26 for at least 27 counties, including places that are in the most restrictive tier of the state’s virus designations.
High-contact outdoor sports like football, basketball and rugby can also resume under that standard, but only if all coaches and players 13 and older get tested once a week. Test results must be available within 24 hours of competition.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state will pay for the tests.The new guidelines were developed in partnership with organizations large and small, including the Let Them Play coalition, the governor said, thanking them “for their strong advocacy.”
“We are now confident with new guidelines we are publishing today we can get youth sports moving again in the state of California,” Newsom said.
The rules apply to all organized sports for kids and adults, including schools and community-sponsored programs. It does not apply to collegiate or professional sports or “community events,” which include marathons and other endurance races.
The guidance requires all coaches and spectators to wear masks. It says athletes should wear masks when not participating, such as when they are sitting on the sidelines.
Twenty-seven counties currently have case rates at or below 14 people per 100,000. The largest is Santa Clara county, which includes the city of San Jose.
An additional 16 counties have case rates between 14 and 20 people per 100,000 and could soon meet the new standard. That includes Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno counties.
Dr. Tomas Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health, said state officials loosened the rules because case rates and hospitalizations are declining across the state.
“Youth sports are important to our children’s physical and mental health, and our public health approach has worked to balance those benefits against COVID-19 risks,” he said.
This story has been corrected to say the new rules for youth sports take effect Feb. 26.