COVID Surge Tightens Restrictions for Athletes

First published in the Jan. 8 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

With coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County surging to levels higher than last winter, high school athletics have once more been hamstrung.
The County Department of Public Health updated its guidelines and tightened restrictions for youth sports on Jan. 3, which includes high school teams.
Another notable announcement came from Glendale High School’s athletic director Narek Vardanian, who told the News-Press that spectators will be limited at indoor competitions.
“There will be no spectators for indoor sports for this week, and it will be reevaluated on a weekly basis,” Vardanian said. “If spectators have masks on, for example, at soccer stadiums, there’s enough space to distance outdoors.”
Two of the county guidelines are masking requirements for moderate- and high-risk outdoor sports and a seven-day suspension of all team activities if there has been an outbreak of four or more epidemiologically linked cases within 14 days.
The guidelines state: “All coaches, staff, volunteers, referees and officials when working with teams in settings where distancing is not feasible, and regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask at all times.”
Additionally, for spectators in outdoor settings with fewer than 5,000 people, it is recommended but not required to mask where social distancing is not possible.
Water polo, soccer and basketball, the three main winter sports, are classified as high-risk outdoor sports except for the latter, which is held indoors. Therefore, per the revised guidelines, the participants of these competitions should be masked during competition and practice.
“Masks are also required while on the sidelines, in team meetings, and within locker rooms and weight rooms,” the county’s guidelines state. “When actively practicing, conditioning or competing in indoor sports, masks are required by participants as practicable. When actively practicing, conditioning or competing in outdoor moderate- and high-risk sports where distancing is not possible, masks are required by participants, as practicable.”
The second notable update is the seven-day suspension of all team activities if there is a breakout within 14 days. The team will require L.A. Public Health approval before resuming activities; however, the language of the guidelines allows for individual training to continue during the suspension period as long as those individuals comply with quarantine or isolation orders as applicable.
Additionally, all players, coaches and staff of any age require a weekly negative test if their vaccination status is not up-to-date. According to county, up-to-date vaccination status refers to individuals receiving their booster dose when eligible or completing a primary Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine series.
Glendale, Hoover and Crescenta Valley high school athletic competitions were postponed, with only a few games surviving their regular schedules. Vardanian and Hoover’s athletic director Jack Van Patten said postponed games would be rescheduled when possible, but there is a short window before the season ends.
“Last year’s games were canceled and we were hoping for something to come. This time it’s been a little more frustrating because we were planning on playing everything; our tournaments were set and paid for too, but now we are shut down,” said Van Patten, who also coaches Hoover’s varsity boys’ basketball team. “It’s messy; not much fun right now. For the kids, we tell them it’s just another obstacle, but it is deflating.”
To allow greater flexibility, the California Interscholastic Federation announced on Wednesday the suspension of Bylaw 504.M for the remainder of the winter season, a move that permits schools to schedule games on Sundays.
Barring any more postponements due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Glendale, Hoover and Crescenta Valley are scheduled to return to Pacific League action the week of Jan. 10.