State Eases Restrictions on Youth Sports Amid COVID Concerns

February 19, 2021 Updated: February 21, 2021

LOS ANGELES—Youth competition in sports such as football and basketball could resume sooner than anticipated in the Southland, with the state today revising its guidelines to allowing the activities in counties with relatively low rates of new COVID-19 cases.

The standard, which takes effect Feb. 26, allows for a resumption of “outdoor high-contact sports” in counties that reach an adjusted daily average of 14 new cases per 100,000 residents. Los Angeles County currently has a rate of 20 cases per 100,000 residents. Orange County’s rate is 20.7.

Counties that reach the 14-case threshold will be able to resume basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, rowing/crew, soccer, and water polo. As of Feb. 19, there were 27 counties that met the threshold, none of them in Southern California.

Resuming football, rugby, and water polo will also require weekly COVID testing of players—aged 13 and above—and coaches, with test results made available within 24 hours of a competition.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would absorb the cost of the required testing.

The guidance applies to all forms of organized youth sports, including school and community programs, and private clubs and leagues.

Newsom said the combination of school closures and the inability for youth to participate in sports has had both a physical and mental health impact, “in profound and significant and in many cases deleterious ways.”

He said the downward trends in COVID cases in California prompted the state to move forward with a resumption of youth sports.

“We are now confident … that we can get youth sports moving again in the state of California, get competition moving again in the state of California with, as always, caveats,” he said. “None of us are naive. … Despite those very encouraging trends, we still need to be cautious until we
reach herd immunity.”

The guidance encourages, but does not mandate, vaccinations for athletes, coaches, and staff.

It also maintains previous guidance limiting spectators to immediate household members, with limits on overall numbers to ensure physical distancing.