Obstacles remain in new guidelines for indoor high school sports to begin

Eric Sondheimer
·3 min read
SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 21: NCAA basketballs in a rack on the court.
(Joel Auerbach / Getty Images)

The California Department of Public Health released updated youth sports guidelines Thursday night that will require expansive testing procedures to immediately play indoor sports such as basketball.

The new guidelines were a result of the settlement of a lawsuit in San Diego, where a Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the state's restrictive measures, clearing the way for all sports in San Diego County to take place if schools follow similar procedures and protocols used by college and pro teams. Now those procedures have been adopted statewide.

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While lawyers, coaches and athletes associated with the San Diego County lawsuit held a celebratory news conference on Thursday lauding the settlement, there remains obstacles to overcome for indoor sports to be held on a wide scale in the coming weeks.

The procedures and guidelines released are contradictory, if not confusing. There are conflicting instructions on mask requirements during competitions. One administrator said he read the updated guidelines three times and still wasn't certain what they meant.

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The CIF sent out an interpretation of the updated guidelines on Friday and the way forward for indoors sports to resume appears to be one of two ways: Either daily antigen testing or periodic PCR tests.

"We feel confident we can test the way we've been asked to test," said Terry Barnum, head of athletics at Studio City Harvard-Westlake.

One ominous development pointed out by Chris Fore of the California Coaches Assn. is that some public schools might decline to resume indoor sports because of liability concerns.

"Because indoor sports have to follow the CDPH's Institution of Higher Education Guidance, and one part in there says that 'athletes are not required to waive their legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation,' I think this could be a big hurdle for some districts," he said in an email. "Student-athletes and parents are usually made to sign an assumption of risks to participate in athletics. This helps to protect districts in case of injury. The collegiate guidance doesn't allow this for COVID-19. I think that's going to be a problem in some districts/schools."

Stephen Grebing, one of the attorneys who negotiated the settlement, said the guidelines released are in line with what was discussed as part of the settlement. He said he is not aware of any state requiring COVID-19 waivers to play sports.

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As for the expanded testing requirement for indoor sports to begin immediately, Grebing said the private testing company his group has recommended is ready to help with any new burdens placed on schools through testing requirements.

"All the kids need to do is register," he said. "We did everything we could to make this easy for the districts so they could play."

The lawsuit in San Diego County was dismissed on Friday after the settlement.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.