Updated CDPH (and CIF) Guidance for Youth Sports Effective February 26, 2021


On February 19, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) updated its guidance for Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Recreational Adult Sports (“Updated Guidance”). The Updated Guidance permits all outdoor “moderate contact” and “high contact” sports, including Football, Soccer, Baseball, and Cheerleading (see chart in the Updated Guidance for a full list of sports), to begin competition as early as February 26, 2021, provided adjusted case rates for the county are equal to or less than 14 cases per 100,000 population (see https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/), subject to informed consent requirements, and, in some cases, new testing protocols.

Likewise on February 19, 2021 the California Interscholastic Federation (“CIF”) issued its Education-Based Athletics COVID-19 Modifications, which applies the Updated Guidance to CIF sanctioned sports.

Prior CDPH guidance, issued on December 14, 2020, allowed Track and Field, Cross Country, Tennis (singles) and other designated outdoor “low contact” sports to resume competition, regardless of the county’s “tier” status, but provided that all other sports could reopen only when the county reached a designated tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy (e.g. red for Baseball or Softball, orange for Football, yellow for indoor Basketball and Volleyball, etc.).  [December 17, 2020 AALRR Alert]

The Updated Guidance broadly authorizes a return to outdoor sports competition, providing that, effective February 26, 2021, all outdoor “moderate contact” and “high-contact” sports can now resume competition, provided the county has an adjusted case rate equal to or less than 14 per 100,000, under the following conditions:

  • Informed consent must be provided to and signed by all parents/guardians, indicating their understanding and acknowledgement of the increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 in moderate-contact and high-contact sports.
  • Weekly COVID-19 testing is required for football, rugby, and water polo participants age 13 and over in counties with a case rate between 7 and 14 per 100,000, with results made available within 24 hours of competition. If more than 50% of a team’s participants are less than the age of 13, then the entire team, except for the coach, is exempted from the testing requirement.  According to the CIF announcement, additional guidance from CDPH regarding testing is forthcoming.  In Governor Newsom’s public statements, he has expressed that the State intends to provide access to such testing.

Competitions permitted under the Updated Guidance will not be required to cease if a county’s adjusted case rate later exceeds the 14 per 100,000 threshold.

The new CDPH guidance does not change existing restrictions for any indoor sports, such as Basketball or Volleyball. Nor does the new CDPH guidance change existing restrictions for outdoor sports in counties with case rates above 14 per 100,000 (though, if current trends hold, many counties will be below 14 cases per 100,000 within the next several weeks).  County public health officials may also impose stricter local rules.

General requirements for all indoor or outdoor sports continue to apply, including limitations on observers (immediate household members only for the “strict purpose of age appropriate supervision”, subject to social distancing and mask requirements); “face coverings must be worn when not participating in the activity”; and “teams must not participate in out-of-state games and tournaments.”  For inter-team competitions, (a) both teams must be located in the same county and the sport must be authorized in the county; or (b) the teams must be located in immediately bordering counties and the sport must be authorized in both counties.  Any cross-county competitions must be vetted by local public health officials with jurisdiction over each team.

Finally, teams are limited to one competition per day, and tournaments/events involving more than two teams are not permitted except in “sports where individual competitors from multiple teams are routine such as: track and field; cross-country; golf; skiing/snowboarding; tennis; swimming/diving/surfing; biking and equestrian events” with approval from local public health officials with jurisdiction over each team.

            CIF Bylaws on Outside Competition Remain in Place Only for Football

The CIF, meanwhile, issued a recent update to its youth sports bylaws.  The CIF had previously suspended its Bylaws 600 to 605, regulating outside competition, so as to allow students in the 2020-21 school year to participate on an outside club team at the same time they participate on their high school team.  However, CDPH strongly encourages limitations on athletes participating in more than one team over the same season or time period.  The CIF recently confirmed with CDPH that this is not a mandate, only a recommendation.  Therefore, effective immediately, the CIF has reinstated its suspension of Bylaws 600-605. The only exception is students will not be allowed to participate on a high school football team and a club football team at the same time. (CIF Update Regarding Bylaws 600-605 and Cohorting - California Interscholastic Federation (cifstate.org).)

            Caveat for San Diego County Youth Sports

Within hours of the CDPH releasing updated guidance on February 19, 2021, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Earl H. Mass issued a temporary restraining order in Gardinera v. County of San Diego et al.¸Superior Court Case. No. 37-2021-00004087-CU-CR-NC, that immediately precludes County of San Diego, the CDPH, and Governor Gavin Newsom from enforcing orders that prevent youth in San Diego County from participating in high school or youth sports “as long as the[y] follow the same or similar COVID-19 protocols imposed for competition in professional and/or collegiate sports within the County.”  Statements in the Minute Order indicate that it preceded the CDPH’s updated guidance.  The CDPH’s updated guidance—providing conditions for outdoor moderate- and high-contact sports to resume contingent on a county’s case rate—will likely be considered when the Court considers petitioners’ request for a Preliminary Injunction on March 5, 2021. (San Diego Judge Rules on Return of High School Sports.)

The Updated Guidance “does not apply to collegiate or professional sports.” (The CDPH’s September 30, 2020 Guidance for Collegiate Athletics can be found here.)  Therefore, school districts and organizations in San Diego County are encouraged to contact legal counsel for assistance on applying the appropriate youth sport protocols, particularly if they intend to allow sport competition not permitted under the Updated Guidance.

Click here to read the full CDPH guidance.

Please feel free to reach out to the Authors of this Alert or your regular AALRR counsel if you require assistance preparing an appropriate informed consent document, or if you have questions relating to this new guidance.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process. 

© 2021 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo


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