A new directive from the California Department of Public Health that was released on Monday leaves little hope for the ability to play most high school sports during the 2020-21 school year, especially those scheduled for Season 1. Athletes, coaches, parents and administrators waited more than four months for the update on youth sports, and the news wasn’t good.
The directive further delays sports competitions between teams until at least Jan. 25. When the California Interscholastic Sports Federation, or CIF — the governing body for prep athletics in California — announced its revised schedule on July 20, fall sports were scheduled to begin as early as Dec. 19. Two weeks ago, the schedule was pushed back to Jan. 1. The return-to-competition date will be reassessed by Jan. 4. In the meantime, teams are forbidden to participate in tournaments held outside of California, as had been a common practice during the pandemic.
“Definitely, some of it is disappointing, but it also gives hope to some of the sports, particularly the ones in the purple and red tiers,” said Anthony Chan, South Pasadena High School’s director of athletics. “We are still trying to wrap our heads around it and we also need a little guidance. We want to know what we will be doing as far as the continuation of workouts is concerned. We are still digesting the information and expect to hear a little more from the CIF.”
Sports will be allowed based on a chart that follows California’s color-tiered metric on test positivity and adjusted case rates for COVID-19. The purple tier, indicating a “widespread” infection rate, means there are more than seven daily cases per 100,000 population. The red tier, indicating a “substantial” infection rate, means there are between four and seven daily cases per 100,000 population. The orange tier, indicating a “moderate” infection rate, means there are between one and 3.9 daily cases per 100,000 population. The yellow tier, indicating a “minimal” infection rate, is reached when there is less than one daily case per 100,000 population. According to data released by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Dec. 15, the county had an infection rate of 26.9 positive cases per 100,000.
To begin the playing of football games, for example, which had been scheduled to start in early January, a county would need to be in the moderate, or orange, tier.
There is positive news, as outdoor sports such as tennis, golf, cross country, and track and field can be held if a county is in the purple tier. Sports allowed to be played in the red tier include baseball, field hockey and girls’ lacrosse. The state must be in the orange tier in order to begin competitions in football, badminton, gymnastics, boys’ lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and water polo. When and if the yellow tier is achieved, competitions will be expanded to include basketball, cheerleading and wrestling.
“We requested that all sports be conducted in the red tier and were hopeful that we would be allowed to proceed accordingly,” said Rob Wigod, the CIF’s commissioner of athletics, in a press release that was distributed on Wednesday morning. “While that is not the case today, I want to assure you that the dialogue will continue between the CIF and the California Department of Public Health to try to advocate for the return of education-based athletics as soon as that can happen in a healthy and safe way.”
The South Pasadena Unified School District closed its doors on March 13 and halted all extracurricular activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On July 20, the CIF announced its updated schedule for the 2020-21 school year that retained all previous sports but employs a two-season format. The CIF’s new calendar postponed the beginning of the traditional fall season — Season 1 — with several sports being shuffled between seasons. Winter sports, such as basketball, were woven into spring sports, with regional or state playoffs ending June 19 and those offerings are now designated as Season 2.
“There is no doubt that we have significant challenges ahead of us,” Wigod concluded. “We must try to overcome those challenges with every effort we can make in support of our student-athletes. It is too important to them for us to not do everything we can do on their behalf to keep their dreams alive. Now is not the time to lose hope and I know I can count on you to continue to fight for what we all believe in.”