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Coronavirus: State to use tiers to determine which sports are allowed, sets Jan. 25 as start date

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A monthslong wait ended Monday as the California Department of Public Health released updated guidelines for school and recreational sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.

No CIF-sanctioned sports have been held at the high school level since mid-March. The guidelines released Monday state that no inter-team competitions can take place until Jan. 25, at the earliest. The CDPH also stated that it will reassess that date on Jan. 4.

One takeaway from the guidelines is how it will affect fall sports, especially football. The guidelines state that football competitions can only take place in counties that are in the orange (moderate) tier of the state's COVID-19 tiered system. 

Much of the state has been mired in the most restrictive purple, or widespread, tier for months, especially during the recent late-year surge in cases. 

"COVID-19 continues to pose a severe risk to communities and requires all people in California to follow recommended precautions and adapt the way they live and function in light of this ongoing risk," the CDPH said in its statement Monday evening. "This guidance provides direction on outdoor and indoor youth and recreational adult sports activities to support a safe environment for these sports. The guidance applies to all organized youth sports — including school- and  community-sponsored programs, and privately-organized clubs and leagues — and adult recreational sports (hereafter youth and adult sports). This guidance does not apply to collegiate or professional sports."

The state is barring out-of-state competitions and multi-team meets, events or competitions between teams that are from different, non-bordering counties.

CDPH Sports Update 4

Santa Ynez head coach Josh McClurg goes over a defensive alignment during a football practice at Santa Ynez High last season. Santa Ynez would be able to hold full practices and play in games if the county is in the orange, or moderate, tier.

"Several multistate outbreaks have been reported in CA residents and around the nation," the CDPH statement stated. "Inter-team competitions, meets, races, or similar events are authorized only if (a) both teams are located in the same county and the sport is authorized in the Table; or (b) teams are located in immediately bordering counties and the sport is authorized in both counties in the Table below.

There was some good news Monday. There are some certain outdoor, low-contact sports that can be held while a county is in the purple tier.

"In general, the more people from outside their household with whom a person interacts, the closer the physical interaction is, the greater the physical exertion is, and the longer the interaction lasts, particularly when indoors, the higher the risk that a person with COVID-19 infection may spread it to others," the CDPH stated Monday.

The department of public health reiterated that indoor activities pose a greater risk of infection for participants compared to outdoor activities and not wearing face coverings can further spread the virus, adding that observers should wear face coverings indoors and sanitizing sports equipment is critical.

"For youth sports (age 18 years and under), immediate household members may observe practices and games as needed for age-appropriate supervision, but observers should be limited to ensure physical distance can be maintained, reduce potential crowding, and maintain indoor and outdoor capacity limits allowed by Tiers," the CDPH guidelines stated.

Indoor sports venues should limit their capacity for athletes, coaches and observers to CDPH Gym & Fitness Center Guidance Capacity (25% in Tier 3 [Orange/Moderate], and 50% in Tier 4 [Yellow/Minimal]).

It does appear that outdoor training sessions can continue, regardless of tier or a regional stay-at-home order.

"Physical conditioning, practice, skill-building, and training that can be conducted outdoors, with 6 feet of physical distancing, and within stable cohorts are authorized regardless of county tier status,"  the CDPH said. "Such activities may be conducted indoors consistent with restrictions by Tier in the Gym & Fitness Center Guidance Capacity."

Below is a breakdown of sports allowed at certain tiers:

Widespread Tier (Purple)

Low-contact, outdoor sports that can be held in the purple tier are: archery, badminton, biking, bocce, corn hole, cross country, dance (no contact), disc golf, golf, ice and roller skating (no contact), lawn bowling, martial arts (no contact), physical training programs (e.g., yoga, Zumba, Tai chi), pickleball (singles), rowing/crew (with 1 person), running, shuffleboard, skeet shooting, skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, walking and hiking. 

Substantial Tier (Red)

Outdoor, moderate-contact sports can be held in the red tier. Those sports are: baseball, cheerleading, dodgeball, field hockey, gymnastics, kickball, lacrosse (girls/women), pickleball (doubles) and softball.

Moderate Tier (Orange)

Outdoor high-contact sports that can take place in the orange tier are football, basketball, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, volleyball and water polo.

The indoor, low-contact sports that can be held in the orange tier are: badminton, curling, dance (no contact), gymnastics, ice skating (individual), physical training, pickleball, (singles), swimming and diving, tennis, track and field and volleyball. 

Minimal Tier (Yellow)

The indoor, moderate-contact sports allowed in the yellow tier are: cheerleading, dance (intermittent contact), dodgeball, kickball, pickleball (doubles), racquetball and squash.

Indoor, high-contact sports allowed are basketball, boxing ice hockey, ice skating (pairs), martial arts, roller derby, soccer, water polo and wrestling.

All sports permitted in lower tiers, are also permitted in higher tiers.


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