Settlement OKs return of indoor youth sports in California

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Indoor youth sports can soon resume in California after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration agreed on Thursday to settle a lawsuit brought by two high-school athletes.

The settlement means indoor youth sports can resume with testing in counties where there are 14 or fewer new cases of the coronavirus per 100,000 people, according to Marlon Gardinera, head football coach at Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego and the father of one of the students named in the lawsuit.

Most counties already meet that threshold. As a whole, California is averaging 10.2 new virus cases per 100,000 people.

“All high school sports can resume in California,” Gardinera said. “Kids can get back to doing what they love.”

Details of the settlement — which apply to all youth sports, not just high school — were confirmed by Ian Friedman and Stephen Grebing, attorneys with the San Diego-based law firm Wingert Grebing who represented the students. State officials did not confirm the settlement, but California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state would issue new guidance soon.

Last month, state officials allowed outdoor sports to resume using the same threshold. It required testing for students ages 13 and above in “close contact” sports like football, rugby and soccer in counties where the virus is widespread, according to state rules. But those rules did not apply to indoor sports.

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.

Friedman said testing for indoor sports is not required for athletes under 13, meaning an indoor youth basketball league of 10-year-olds would not need to be tested before each game.

Testing requirements vary by sport. For indoor sports like basketball, wrestling, martial arts and water polo, testing is required until a county averages less than 1 new coronavirus case per 100,000 people. For sports like badminton, gymnastics, bowling and swimming and diving, testing is required until a county averages between 1 and 3.9 new cases per 100,000 people.

The state’s rules for youth sports are minimum standards. County public health departments can impose rules that are more strict than the state’s rules. Friedman said he and other lawyers at his firm will be monitoring how counties respond.

He said counties that choose to ban indoor high school sports while allowing indoor college and professional sports could 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,” he said.