Updated CDPH Guidance for Youth Sports Effective March 5, 2021


On the evening of March 4, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) updated its guidance for Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Recreational Adult Sports (“Updated Guidance”) to “[s]pecify that teams can return to competition only if they adhere to the stricter requirements in place for college teams.”  This rule applies to indoor sports and other sports not otherwise authorized to return to competition under prior CDPH guidance.

As of February 19, 2021, CDPH permitted all outdoor “moderate contact” and “high-contact” sports to resume competition, provided the county has an adjusted case rate equal to or less than 14 per 100,000, subject to informed consent requirements, and new testing protocols for football, rugby, and water polo. [February 22, 2021 AALRR Alert]

CDPH’s Updated Guidance comes in response to lawsuits which  challenged whether high school athletes, including athletes in sports not authorized to resume competition, have been treated unfairly as compared to college and professional athletes. In the Updated Guidance, under the section “Conditions for Return to Play if Not Otherwise Authorized,” CDPH has listed the applicable higher education sports requirements.  Effective March 5, 2021, K-12 schools may return to competition if not otherwise authorized by the CDPH provided they comply with the following requirements:

  • “Regular periodic” (i.e. weekly) COVID-19 testing is required prior to return to practice for athletes and support staff for all indoor sports (including indoor basketball, volleyball and wrestling) and outdoor sports not previously authorized under the CDPH Guidance.
  • For “high-risk contact sports (basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, rugby, soccer, squash, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling),” COVID-19 testing and results of all athletes and support staff must be made available within 48 hours of each competition. Note that outdoor sports otherwise authorized under the Updated Guidance (e.g. because the county has fallen below 14 cases per 100,000) may be subject to different testing requirements (e.g. football) or no testing requirements (e.g. soccer).

To resume competition and contact practices for sports not previously authorized, the Updated Guidance also requires K-12 schools to adopt a “Return to Play Safety Plan” and a “Site Specific Plan.”  Respectively, these plans require schools to have contact tracing mechanisms for notifying other schools should an athlete from an inter-team competition test positive within 48 hours after competition; and to perform a “comprehensive risk assessment of all work and athletic areas” with a designated staff member to respond to concerns.  The Updated Guidance also imposes new specific screening measures; isolation and quarantine protocols for players in moderate- and high-contact sports; and when traveling to away games, teams must remain in their own cohort, and not mix with the local teams or the host community. 

School districts and organizations are encouraged to check with their local counties and the California Interscholastic Federation for any stricter requirements.

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, interpreting the testing requirements, 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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