For the first time in 11 months, there will be high school sports competitions taking place in the state of California. This month will be the start of high sports such as cross country, golf, tennis, swimming, archery, skiing and snowboarding. With Governor Gavin Newsom lifting the state-wide Regional Stay at Home order last week, the majority of the state’s counties are now in the purple tier, allowing for those aforementioned low-risk sports to begin.
For many high school sports supporters though, it’s not enough. Sports like football and basketball are still stuck on the sidelines because they are considered higher risk. There has seemingly been little traction gained in dialogue between state and county health officials and school administrators on steps that could be taken to make those sports safer.
At one point briefly last week, Santa Clara County health officials brought up a 25-foot rule for schools competing against one another. After a rather big uproar, the new rule was quickly walked back. However, it’s mere presence was a contentious point for athletic directors on where the state and county health officials are getting their information.
“Yesterday was kind of a wishy-washy day,” remarked Wilcox Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Paul Rosa on the confusion of the 25-foot rule. “They kind of knocked it down, but then took that statement back. They said you had to be 25-feet apart, and everybody was up in arms, you can’t play any sport 25 feet apart. They changed it the same day, and now the county is just going to follow the state guidelines. But they put this 25-foot thing in on what data? That number seems to have been pulled out of thin air.”
Local school administrators are stuck bewildered when everything they have heard from other states that have already played high school football, is that those seasons were played without any notable COVID-19 outbreaks.
“I think that’s the 64-thousand-dollar question,” chuckled Fremont High School Athletic Director Jason Townsend. “What do they [the public health department] know that isn’t being shared with us? Because like you said, there have been no documented cases, I believe there were 37 states that were playing sports, so if those 37 were able to do it, how did they pull that off?”
It remains unclear whether football and basketball players wearing masks while playing would allow those sports to be played in the more restrictive tiers. Could playing basketball outdoors with masks potentially put basketball in the red tier with sports like baseball and field hockey?
“The problem with all the stuff that happens is that the guidance comes down from the state and the county and we’re just not privy to getting our information to those people’s ears,” noted Rosa. “Those questions never get answered.”
Attempts made to reach out to spokespersons for both the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the California Public Health Department for comments on this story were not immediately successful.