California's high school athletes will be allowed to resume indoor sports competitions after the state settled a lawsuit by a group of Southern California youth athletes on Thursday, March 4.
A similar lawsuit was filed by an Atherton teen represented by the same law firm in San Mateo County last week urging state and county officials to loosen prohibitions.
The settlement, which will allow all sports to operate using similar protocols to those in place for college and professional athletes, resolves a lawsuit filed last month in San Diego County by high school football players.
Their attorney, Stephen C. Grebing, a managing partner of Wingert Grebing of San Diego, said the settlement will allow competitions in all sports in counties with case counts below 14 per 100,000, possibly as soon as Friday, March 5.
Previously, indoor sports such as volleyball and basketball would only be permitted if a county was in the yellow tier, which indicates minimal spread of the coronavirus, with fewer than one COVID-19 case per 100,000 people. No county in the state has reached that tier yet.
San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are in the second-most restrictive red tier, which means there are fewer than seven cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents.
"This is great news for youth sports throughout California: (the) settlement will be to allow for indoor and outdoor sports to resume — ahead of their color tier — if they follow the same guidelines as college sports," said Sam Singer, who represents Atherton resident Stella Buch, 14, a volleyball player at Menlo School.
Athletes will be required to be tested weekly for COVID-19, the same as high-contact outdoor sports in counties with case rates between seven and 14 per 100,000. Coaches, staff and players on the bench are required to wear masks, but athletes are not required to wear them while playing, Grebing said.
The ban violated equal protection because there is no medical evidence that competing in indoor team sports is safe for college and professional athletes but not safe high school athletes, Buch said in the court filing on Feb. 26. Her lawsuit emphasized the disparate impact an indoor team sport ban has on women athletes.
On Feb. 19, the California Department of Public Health issued a guidance on youth and adult recreational sports banning all indoor high school sports in counties in the purple and red tiers, effective Feb. 26.