With coronavirus cases continuing to drop in California, the door is slowly opening for high school sports to resume.
That’s welcome news to Anthony Chan, South Pasadena High’s athletic director who is pleased – for the most part – to hear the latest update from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
In a key announcement, CDPH officials have permitted competition for outdoor youth sports as long as county case rates are lower than 14 per 100,000 and the standard precautions are in place.
Twenty-seven counties of the state’s 58 meet that requirement, according to the CDPH, however Los Angeles County is still not one of them. In the counties receiving the green light, football, baseball, soccer, and softball are among sports allowed to begin play February 26.
“Youth sports are important to our children’s physical and mental health, and our public health approach has worked to balance those benefits against COVID-19 risks,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer. “With case rates and hospitalizations declining across California, we are allowing outdoor competition to resume, with modifications and steps to reduce risk, in counties where case rates are lower.”
Teams, according to the CDPH, are strongly encouraged to reduce COVID-19 transmission by wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, and using appropriate hand hygiene and equipment sanitation.
On Tuesday, there was some promising news coming out of the Rio Hondo League, in which South Pasadena High is a member, as the Tigers traveled to take part in a socially-distanced cross country dual meet against La Cañada High School at Hahamongna Park. It marked the school’s first competition since last March as SPHS won easily, winning both the boys and girls’ varsity races as well as the boys and girls’ junior varsity competitions.
A high school cross-country meet at the same location on Thursday will feature Monrovia, Blair and San Marino.
Runners, all wearing masks, participated in a time trial meet, grouped in pods of 14, with safety a top priority. “I think as case numbers continue to go down, anything is possible,” explained Chan, hoping to see other sports join cross-country being played soon. “My focus is on getting the sports in the low-risk tiers to compete as soon as possible and continue to have more programs compete once they are able to.”
As sports continue to roll out, local school officials will consult and follow strict guidelines outlined by the South Pasadena Unified School District, the California Department of Public Health, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Los Angele County of Education.
Chan said it’s likely that a junior varsity tennis match will be scheduled in a few weeks followed by some other sports that have a lower of risk spreading COVID-19. While restrictions have relaxed in many areas of the state, Southern California counties need to show a major reduction in virus cases — say health officials — to meet certain requirements for play to restart, especially high contact sports like football, water polo, basketball and volleyball.
With Tuesday’s cross-country meet in the books, Chan looks to the day when other athletic competitions can finally get the go-ahead. He acknowledges the long wait between competitions – nearly a year – hasn’t been easy.
“I think our league has rescheduled matches about five times at this point,” he said. “I can speak for the athletic directors in the league, we are exhausted in trying to interpret the various governing bodies that control our ability to practice and compete, all the while we are trying to book and rebook matches.”
Although online learning is still in place at the high school level, “I know we will continue to find ways to enhance the student experience for our kids this year,” said Chan. “I have been looking through some of the photos and videos on my phone of our sports teams from last year, and I am absolutely ready for other sports to be played.”
To see a competition like a cross-country meet between two rival schools this week was “like a breath of fresh air,” noted the SPHS athletic director, taking a victory lap of sorts in knowing “that all of our efforts have gone towards fulfillment.”