SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- After spending nearly a year on the sidelines, it's now game time for organized youth and recreational sports in San Luis Obispo County.
Friday marks the first day they may resume in the county.
San Luis Obispo County has been given the go-ahead because its COVID-19 case rate has dropped below 14 cases per 100,000, which is the State’s threshold for allowing these activities to return.
The county currently has an adjusted case rate of 9.4 per 100,000.
Both youth and adult sporting activities may now begin competitive action in a modified capacity.
It includes school teams, community programs, private clubs and leagues.
"I'm completely floored," said Shane Williams, Five Cities Youth Baseball league president. "Blew my mind. The excitement, you can feel it reverberate just- from all the texts and emails and phone calls that I've gotten."
In order to play, teams must adhere to the updated guidance from the California Public Health Department.
It includes requirements that must be observed by all sports, including use of face coverings by observers and coaches, distancing between non-household members, limitations on spectators, limitations on tournaments, and other requirements.
Williams said Five Cities Youth Baseball is strictly following all safety measures.
"It’s masks on players and coaches at all times," said Williams. "Everyone is six feet apart. We won't be using inside the dugout. The players will be set down the foul line fence six feet apart. We have sanitizers for the hands and balls and equipment. The players will not be sharing any equipment. Upon entry into the park,, every kid and coach will have a temperature check that will be recorded. If in the event someone records over 100 degrees, we ask the parents and player to leave the premises. I think this is a great way to enable the youth to come out and enjoy life because it's been rough for a year."
In another significant step, the Central Coast Athletic Association (CCAA) is moving forward to start the high school football season on March 19.
"Our CCAA athletic directors all met yesterday and came up with a great plan to start our first local high school football games and our league schedule on the 20th of March, or the 19th, depending on the school decided to play on a Friday or Saturday," said Kevin Hitchen, Mission Prep Athletic Director.
The CCAA includes all large high schools from Paso Robles to Orcutt.
The football season will consist of five games for each school.
"It's going to be five regular season games and then our section would allow two extra games after that, but it's ultimately going to be up to each school's district or diocese on what their end date is," said Hitchen. "We're very excited that athletics are coming back in all of our outdoor sports. It's going to be a great opportunity for kids to find joy in something that they might have been missing in the past and the opportunity to compete."
There will be no sectional or state postseason play.
All football players and coaches, as well as those in water polo will be tested for COVID-19 weekly.
"For the rest of our outdoor sports, they don't have a testing component, but there are different guidelines, so we're working closely with the county to make sure we're adhering to all county and state guidelines," said Hitchen.
Previously, the CIF-Central Section announced playoffs for football, cross country, girls volleyball, and water polo have been cancelled for this school year.
"We're just grateful for the opportunity, quite frankly, and we're very excited for all the student-athletes and coaches getting to do the thing they love," said Hitchen.