The California Department of Public Health latest “Guidance for Youth and Recreational Adult Sports” has further delayed the start of a high school sports season, and has spelled out just how much COVID-19 infections will need to be reduced before athletics can begin again.

The current spike in COVID-19 infections means that San Joaquin County is a long way from restarting the sports season, compared to October when teams and league held out hope that they could begin a modified season this month.

Local high school athletic directors said that absent any clear direction from the California Interscholastic Federation or Sac-Joaquin Section, their programs remain on hold with the hope that sports can begin again in early 2021. The latest word from CIF at the start of December indicated that while there wouldn’t be any state championships or tournaments for football or volleyball, individual leagues could still have the opportunity to begin competition on Jan. 1

“We are still waiting for an update from the section this Friday and an update from the district before anything concrete can happen,” said Kimball High Athletic Director Joseph Graham.

The new guidance, released on Monday, now puts the earliest possible start date for youth and adult recreational sports, including high school athletics, at Jan. 25. Outdoor non-contact sports, such as cross country and golf are still allowed under the most restrictive purple, or “widespread” tier in Governor Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

The rate of infections, though, is increasing in San Joaquin County, and would need to be reversed if sports are to begin again under the latest guidance.

Under the less restrictive red, or “substantial” tier, the state would allow outdoor moderate-contact sports like baseball and softball. Even further improvement would be needed to reach the orange, or “moderate” tier, where full-contact sports like football and indoor sports like volleyball and basketball would be allowed.

San Joaquin County was in the red tier for a few weeks in October, when the infection rate was less than seven new cases per-100,000 residents. That rate was as low as 4.9 infections per-100,000 the week of Oct. 20.

Had the county reduced its infection rate to less than four per-100,000 it would have moved into the orange tier, but by the end of October the rate of infections began to climb sharply.

As of Dec. 8 the state was reporting that as of late November the county was deep in the purple tier with an infection rate of 27.3 new cases per-100,000 residents, and on Tuesday the state reported that as of Dec. 5 the rate had doubled to 55.2 new cases per-100,000.

• Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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