SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- High school football players in San Luis Obispo County are now required to undergo weekly testing for COVID-19.
The requirement, which also includes water polo athletes, is the result of the county's increased adjusted case rate.
This week, the adjusted case rate in San Luis Obispo County moved slighty upwards to 7 cases per 100,000.
"Because of their risk of high contact, when a county has an adjusted rate of 7 (per 100,000) or above, then weekly testing is a mandate for the athletes and for their coaches," said San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein. "On Monday, we had that communication with all the superintendents. They are planning to do the testing that's required.
According to guidance for outdoor and indoor youth and recreational adult Sports established by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), testing is required when a county's adjusted case rate is between 14-7 per 100,000.
Testing will be required for both student-athletes, coaches, team managers, and anyone else who is constant close contact with a sports program.
"Player safety is always our number one priority," said Arroyo Grande High School head football coach Mike Hartman. "So, if they say this is what you need to do, then we're more than happy to do it."
The CDPH said testing is necessary because football and water polo, as well as rugby, are "high contact sports that are likely to be played unmasked at times, with close, face to face contact exceeding 15 minutes."
Prior to this week, COVID-19 testing was not required in San Luis Obispo County for these sports.
The county's adjusted case rate has been under 7 for the entire month of March, but has seen a slight gradual increase over the past three weeks.
On March 1, the adjusted case rate was 6.8 per 100,000, on March 8, it was at 5.7, and last week, on March 15, it was 6.2.
In Santa Barbara County, COVID-19 testing has been ongoing at high schools since the county's case rate was about 7 per 100,000.
Last week, positive tests with three football programs, Righetti, Pioneer Valley and San Marcos forced the cancellations of games.
This week, Santa Barbara County saw its case rate fall below 7 per 100,000, which meant weekly testing would no longer be required.
However, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department issued a Health Order this week that will keep testing required for high contact sports.
It stated testing will remain in place, "Due to the County spread of COVID-19 among sports participants."
As of Thursday evening, no San Luis Obispo County schools have reported a positive test within their program program.
At Arroyo Grande, the Eagles are all set to face off with St. Joseph in a highly-anticipated Mountain League matchup.
"We are ready to go," said Arroyo Grande athletic director Stephen Field. "Our tests came back clean. We're excited about that, and so is St. Joe's. We're both set and ready to play for Friday."
Field added the school, as well as all other schools in the Central Coast Athletic Association, are ready to adjust should a positive case come up.
"You wake up in the morning and ask, what's the curveball today?" said Field. "You kind of get ready for it. Some things you can kind of have some backup plans for and some things you adapt to on the fly. We've been making that happen and whatever we've got to do to make sure we're, one safe, and two, to give our kids opportunities. They've been waiting for a long time, so whatever it takes."
For more information on the CDPH sports guidance, click here.