CDPH Updates High School Sports Guidelines

California Department of Public Health proposes date for return to competition for high school sports.


Photo By Katelyn Newton

The cross country team lines up in socially distant pods for conditioning through their coach’s club Sacramento Valley Endurance.

Katelyn Newton, Mirada Staff

According to an update from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), outdoor, physically-distanced training may continue with modifications, including in counties under the Regional Stay at Home Order. The CDPH has permitted competition as early Jan. 25, but the department is reconvening on Jan. 4 to evaluate coronavirus transmission rates.

The instruction released on Dec. 14 applies to all organized youth and adult sports, including school programs, community organization and private teams. Stakeholders including the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) and the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts (CARPD) worked with the CDPH to produce the recent guidelines.

If students can participate in their sport outside, while maintaining at least six feet between other teammates, physical conditioning, practice, skill-building or other training may take place statewide. Youth in counties with Regional Stay at Home Order are encouraged to limit outdoor activity to a single household while the order is in effect.

Various activities were rated for their risk of transmission depending on contact between players. Though competition is not yet permitted, the CDPH released guidelines in anticipation of competitions in 2021.

The CDPH defined the following four “sport risk profiles” that allude to which activities will be allowed to compete in each of the four COVID-19 Tiers: outdoor low-contact sports (purple/ widespread), outdoor moderate-contact sports (red/ substantial), outdoor high-contact sports (orange/ moderate) and indoor moderate-contact sports (yellow/ minimal).

The following table outlines examples of sports and activities that fall into each risk profile. Screenshot from the California Department of Public Health’s Dec. 14 release.

Inter-team competition will only be permitted if both teams are located in the same county and their sport is allowed given their current tier, or if both teams are located in immediately bordering counties and both counties permit that specific sport.

The CDPH created General Guidance for Youth and Adult Sports Participants, Coaches and Support Staff, detailing rules for return to play.

The guidelines recommend that participants should wear a mask both indoors and outdoors when participating in their sport, unless the face covering could become a hazard. Coaches, observers and athletes not actively participating (on the sidelines) must wear face coverings that comply with the CDPH guidance for face coverings at all times.

Physical distancing should be maintained to “the maximum extent possible,” including by staggering starts and enforcing distancing on the sidelines.

In high school sports, immediate household members may attend competitions but should be limited so that they can maintain distance from non-household members and wear masks at all times. Indoor venues must be limited to 25% capacity in the Moderate Tier (orange) and 50% capacity in the Minimal Tier (yellow).

The CDPH recognizes the importance of sports in youth, as explained by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but must consider the rising coronavirus infection rates and shrinking ICU capacities. While outdoor conditioning continues with modification, students and families across California now wait for the Jan. 4 update as to see if competition will be allowed before the start of February.