Recent news, data for COVID-19 raises concern about return of HS sports – Press Enterprise

It’s not the news CIF Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod wants to hear right now.

The rate of positive coronavirus tests has increased in California in recent weeks. Cal and Utah had to cancel college football games last week because COVID-19 hit their programs, and Stanford played its season opener without its starting quarterback because of coronavirus-related protocols.

High school football games in Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas, states where they are currently able to play, have been canceled or postponed because COVID-19 showed up among teams.

“It’s certainly been difficult, especially these last few weeks,” Wigod said Monday, Nov. 9, of trying to stay optimistic as the CIF and Southern Section move closer to the scheduled start of the high school sports year.

During Monday’s interview, Wigod commented on a Los Angeles Times story about a West Covina baseball travel ball team that had a reported 10 coronavirus cases after returning from a tournament in Arizona.

In July, the CIF State office announced that the high school sports year that usually begins in August would not start until December. The first high school football games in the CIF’s Southern Section that includes Orange County and much of Southern California will be Jan. 7-9.

Other sports will start earlier. Boys volleyball will begin on Dec. 12, girls volleyball on Dec. 19 and boys and girls water polo on Dec. 21 and 28, respectively. Boys and girls cross country will begin Dec. 26.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that the state’s latest figures show that the rate of positive COVID-19 tests are at 3.7 percent. Newsom noted that the positivity rate on Oct. 19 was 2.5 percent.

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On Tuesday, Nov. 10, California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly will announce which counties fall into which tiers, the color-coded system that places them into either the purple tier, which means COVID-19 is “widespread,” the red tier (“substantial spread”), the orange tier (“moderate spread”) or yellow tier (“minimal spread”).

“I anticipate you’ll hear from Dr. Ghaly,” Newsom said, “that we will see more restrictive tiering based upon case rates that have begun to increase.”

For Wigod and others in high school sports, the coronavirus vaccine that on Monday seemed closer to reality can’t come soon enough.

Wigod knows that coaches and athletic directors statewide are waiting to hear from Newsom, Dr. Ghaly and the California Department of Public Health about specific guidelines for sports to return to high schools. With the start of some contests just five weeks away, schools are still waiting to receive a timeline to follow for how they can safely expand their practice activities, and then what they need to do for games or other competition events.

CIF State Executive Director Ron Nocetti also is awaiting direction from state government leadership.

“We’re all waiting for pending guidance from the governor’s office and the California Department of Public Health,” Nocetti said Monday.

Wigod said the CIF State office’s sports medicine advisory committee has reached out to the CPDH more than once to ask for specific guidelines and protocols.

“It’s been so frustrating in one respect,” Wigod said, “in that we haven’t been able to put our fingers on when certain things can come back, what ‘red tier’ means as to what you can and cannot do.”

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Wigod knows that high school coaches, athletes and athletes’ parents are frustrated when they see interscholastic games being played in other states and the continuation of club teams participating in games and tournaments in state and out of state.

“In the club and travel ball world, there’s a lot happening there,” Wigod said. “People are seeing state championships happening in other places but not happening in California in education-based athletics.”

Wigod said that if schedule changes have to be made to any sports because of coronavirus, those changes would be restricted to the reduction or elimination of nonleague contests.