The California Department of Public Health has issued updated guidelines for high school sports – including football, soccer, baseball and cheerleading – to resume, with modifications, beginning Friday, Feb. 26.

However, based on current COVID-19 statistics, the city of Irvine and Orange County currently do not meet requirements for activities to begin. In a tweet Friday, the city of Irvine shared an update regarding the state’s announcement on youth sports.

“The state has released new guidance allowing outdoor, high contact youth sports to resume on Feb. 26 in counties with COVID-19 case rates at or below 14 per 100,000. OC’s case rate does not yet meet that requirement. We will provide additional updates as they become available,” the tweet read.

On Friday, Feb. 19, the Orange County Health Care Agency COVID-19 Dashboard showed the county’s adjusted case rate of 20.7 per 100,000. In California, currently 27 of 58 counties have case rates below 14 per 100,000.

Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer, credited decreasing COVID-19 infections across the state as the catalyst for this decision.

“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,” Aragón said. “With case rates and hospitalizations declining across California, we are allowing outdoor competition to resume, with modifications and steps to reduce risk, in counties where case rates are lower.”

California now has divided sports into three different categories, Low-Contact, Moderate-Contact and High-Contact, to help determine a sport’s COVID-19 risk probability.

high school sports

With this, the state has required physical distancing, and the use of face masks at all times for those not participating, or on the sideline, which includes coaches, staff and observers.

Outdoor high-contact sports, like football, rugby and water polo, will require weekly COVID-19 testing for participants 13 and older, in all counties within the Purple or Red tier, with cases rates between seven and 14 per 100,000.

Weekly COVID-19 testing will not be a requirement for participants in moderate-contact sports — baseball, cheerleading and softball.

The state’s new guidance, released on Friday, Feb. 19, marks the first time California has given the go-ahead for high school sports to resume activities since the pandemic shutdown all CIF high school sports in April 2020.

With the announcement, CIF Southern Section has now issued potential start dates for the upcoming season for high school sports, barring the county’s case rates are meet the requirements.

Rob Wigod, Commissioner of Athletics for CIF Southern Section, also issued a statement emphasizing that the governing body’s primary focus was the student athletes:

“We are now prepared to enter another phase of this journey we have been on for almost an entire year. From the very beginning, we have always tried to keep focus on student-athletes, doing all we can to come through for them and be able to resume our education-based athletic programs. Let us resolved in the time ahead to continue to do all we can in-service to the young people we are so fortunate to serve.”