On Thursday, California agreed to a settlement with Let Them Play CA and two San Diego-area high school coaches, allowing both indoor and outdoor youth sports to resume in the state.
Under the terms of the settlement, indoor youth sports can resume with COVID-19 testing in counties where there are 14 or fewer new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. The tests, which are similar to what professional and college athletes currently have to do, must be received by officials two days before the game or meet.
Thursday’s settlement changes that. Indoor sports can resume “as long as they follow same or similar testing guidelines that have been imposed on college and professional athletes,” Friedman said. Test results must be received within 48 hours of competition. Fans can also return to competitions, but it will only be limited to up to four family members per athlete being allowed to attend.
County public health departments can also add additional regulations onto the new state minimum standards, but may also face court challenges if they are deemed too strict.
While outdoor youth sports had been allowed to return last month, the state decided to not include indoor sports in that decision, beginning a new movement to allow indoor youth sports to return.
The San Diego case, brought forth by youth sport reopening organization Let Them Play CA, Scripps Ranch High School coach Marlon Gardinera, and Torrey Pines High School coach Ron Gladnick, was one of many levied against Governor Newsom and numerous state agencies in recent months. Other lawsuits, such as one filed in Orange County, also pushed for the complete return of indoor sports.
The matter even made it to the state legislature, with bills being introduced that would allow for the immediate return of all youth sports.
However, the settlement on Thursday nullified all pending lawsuits and bills due to the scope of the agreement.
“All high school sports can resume in California,” said Marlon Gardinera, one of the plaintiffs in the San Diego suit, on Thursday. “Kids can get back to doing what they love.
“With this settlement, that I imagine the governor had to sign off on, there is going to be indoor sports happening throughout the state of California. The indoor sports are going to need testing and unfortunately, the governor has not offered to provide that testing so we came up with a solution. Same folks that tried to get sports back have a testing solution so that no school district or school or county says, ‘we can’t do it because we don’t have the resources to test all of these kids.’ So we came up with a solution to do that for them.”
In addition, Ian Friedman and Stephen Grebing, the San Diego lawyers who represented the plaintiffs in the suit, noted that counties who don’t follow the new indoor sports guidelines may face legal challenges.
“If there’s any counties that choose not to follow the state guidelines we’d be happy to take a look at filing new lawsuits in those counties as well,” explained Friedman.
Students, Parents welcome return decision
Youth sport programs, as well as student athletes and parents of athletes, applauded the decision on Thursday.
“Almost exactly a year later and we have them back,” noted Robert Comacho, a parent in Los Angeles County who had fought for indoor youth sports to return there until the Thursday decision, in a Globe interview. “It doesn’t make up for all that lost time and challenges they faced not being able to play, but it feels good to have them back now.
“My daughter’s volleyball coach just had a Zoom meeting with them all and cried when she said when practice would be. This settlement means so much to so many people.”
Nick Gardinera, a 17-year-old football player and the son of Marlon Gardinera, also noted similar excitement on Thursday.
“To finally be back out there doing what I love to do, it felt so good to finally be doing what felt so natural. ” added Nick. “With the guidelines that have been implemented by the coaches and by the state, I feel pretty safe out there as far as COVID-related issues.”
Most high schools and youth sports organizations are expected to announce return details of indoor sports by next week.
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