California OKs outdoor youth sports during pandemic, but local cases must decline first

California public health officials loosened the rules for youth sports on Friday, allowing all outdoor sports to resume in counties where COVID-19 case rates are at or below 14 people per 100,000.

Los Angeles County—and, by extension, Long Beach—don’t yet meet that threshold. As of Friday, the state-calculated daily case rate was at 20 infections per 100,000 residents. However, that number has been steadily declining in recent weeks. It was at 31.7 as of Feb. 12.

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.

The biggest 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.

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.

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.

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.

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