All outdoor high school sports cleared to start, but San Diego County falls short of red tier

La Costa Canyon football players practice at last week at the Carlsbad school. Games will begin next week.
(Denis Poroy)

Adjusted case rate for COVID-19 cases drops below threshold to allow sports


The numbers are finally working in San Diego’s favor with the COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 falling to a modified 10.8, well below the 14.0 needed to resume all youth outdoor sports, including full football practice.

“It’s good to hit the number, but we’re already open and going because we’re working under a Temporary Restraining Order,” said CIF San Diego Section Commissioner Joe Heinz. “What it does mean is that football can start contact practices and play games as long as there is a testing program in place.”

Football teams in San Diego were allowed to start noncontact practices Feb. 26. The first contests — games or scrimmages — are scheduled for March 12.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, acknowledged the county must still get to 7 cases per 100,000 to regain the next-least-restrictive level of the state’s reopening system, or the red tier.

Getting to red, Wooten said, is particularly important for schools, which can’t open upper grades until the region escapes its current purple tier designation.

A temporary restraining order was issued Feb. 19 allowing high school and youth sports to resume in San Diego County as long as they operate under “the same or similar COVID-19 protocols imposed for competition in professional and/or collegiate sports within the county.”

There is a permanent injunction hearing scheduled for Friday, March 5, in San Diego Superior Court — North before Judge Earl Maas, who granted the TRO after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of football players Nicholas Gardinera and Cameron Wooten.

“The temporary ruling runs out after two weeks,” said the players’ attorney, Stephen Grebing, who said there are plans to file orders in six other counties in California. “Now both sides are allowed to submit different pleadings or introduce new information.

“This will be more of a cut-to-the-chase deal. The order is significant, but so is getting under 14, especially from a safety standpoint.”

Heinz and Grebing agreed the biggest hurdle now is testing.

State regulations for pro and college teams set a higher bar of participation with collegiate rules specifying teams must compete “without spectators” and can only happen when schools work with a lab that “can provide COVID-19 testing and results within 48 hours of competition for high-risk contact sports.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state will bear the cost of testing for some sports.

“UC San Diego has offered free testing to San Diego Unified,” said Brad Hensley of Let Them Play CA. “We want to offer different testing options.

“Players can get tested on their own. They can get tested by their schools or school districts. They can work with a private organization.
“The biggest thing is an equity issue — boys and girls/low income-high income. San Diego is the only county working under a court order, so our indoor sports can go.
“The rest of the state needs to get to 1 case per 100,000 to play indoor sports. That may never happen. These things shouldn’t be decided in court. We need to have a resolution with the state and do what’s fair, what we can agree on.”

The CIF has nothing to do with testing.

“The order is the million-dollar question,” Heinz said. “It will have an impact on our indoor sports.”

Following is the timing for all San Diego sports:


Boys & girls cross country — Playing

• Boys & girls swim and dive — Playing

• Field hockey — Playing

• Football — Practicing. May begin play March 12

• Gymastics — First possible contest Friday (with testing)

• Girls volleyball — First possible contest Friday (with testing)


• Coed tennis — Playing

• Boys & girls golf — Playing

• Boys & girls soccer — First possible contest Friday

• Badminton — First practice March 13

• Baseball — First practice March 13

• Boys & girls basketball — First practice March 13 (as long as order is in effect)

• Competitive sport cheer — First practice March 13

• Boys & girls lacrosse — First practice March 13

• Softball — First practice March 13

• Boys & girls track and field — Practicing

• Boys volleyball — First practice March 13 (as long as order is in effect)

• Boys & girls wrestling — First practice March 13 (as long as order is in effect)

— John Maffei is a sports writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune