Weekly COVID Testing, Masks Required for Young Athletes in Los Angeles County 

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
August 23, 2021 Updated: August 25, 2021

Young athletes in Los Angeles County will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear face masks during practices and games, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department (LAPHD) announced on Aug. 20.

On Aug. 23, however, the guidelines were pulled from the county’s website, with new guidelines to come Aug. 24.

The LAPHD sent an email to schools on Monday saying that “the Protocol for Organized Youth Sports Appendix S has been temporarily taken down while a new Health Officer Order is being finalized,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The initial guidelines stated youth sports leagues must follow the county’s pandemic restrictions, which require people to wear masks in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status, “even while engaging in physical activity in any indoor setting,” according to the LAPHD’s guidance. Last month, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) said it will require weekly COVID-19 tests for students, teachers, and employees.

The LAPHD said it is “strongly recommended” that all student-athletes 12 and older, as well as coaches and staff, get fully vaccinated. “Required testing cadence is minimum once per week,” the LAPHD said in a statement, while testing twice per week is also recommended for unvaccinated students and staff for sports considered moderate or high-risk.

Sports such as baseball, softball, cheerleading, dance, dodgeball, kickball, field hockey, and volleyball are considered moderate risk, while sports including basketball, football, soccer, water polo, wrestling, boxing, and martial arts are considered at high risk for transmitting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19.

“It means all football and water polo players must be tested regardless of vaccination status,” Loyola High School athletic trainer Tim Moscicki told the Los Angeles Times. “I think people who are vaccinated might be upset they have to get tested.”

Athletes are also “strongly discouraged” from “socializing,” and instead encouraged to focus on “skill-building” activities.

“Physical distancing is an infection control best practice that may be implemented as an additional safety layer to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the LAPHD guidance said. “During practices, encourage activities that do not involve sustained person-to-person contact between participants and coaching staff and limit such activities in indoor settings. Instead, consider focusing on skill-building activities.”

While the LAPHD encourages games and practices to be held outdoors whenever possible, masks are “recommended in crowded spaces,” for spectators of outdoor games when social distancing is not possible.

Athletes participating in indoor water sports such as swimming, water polo, and diving may remove their face masks while in the water, but masks must be worn while participants are not in the water, under the guidelines.

Some Southern California parents expressed their opposition to mandatory masks for students. In June, parents sued the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) over mask mandates and mandatory COVID-19 testing for students. Earlier this month, the Orange County Board of Education voted to sue Gov. Gavin Newsom for extending the state of emergency and mandating masks for the fall semester.

The LAPHD and the LAUSD did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.

Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte