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High school sports still in holding pattern as most of state moves back to purple tier
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High school sports still in holding pattern as most of state moves back to purple tier

From the Weekly recap: A collection of our top stories from this week series

Even though Gov. Gavin Newsom said Nov. 16 that he was pulling the “emergency brake” on the state's reopening amid a coronavirus surge, the announcement has had little effect on the area's high school sports landscape.

Multiple athletic directors contacted last week said the governor's announcement combined with Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties both moving from the 'substantial' red tier to the state's lowest purple tier, or the 'widespread' tier, did not force their schools to discontinue on-campus workouts with student-athletes. 

Santa Barbara County's COVID-19 case rate was at 7.1 per 100,000 people as of Nov. 16, moving it back into the state's most restrictive phase, joining neighboring San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties in the purple tier.

In this tier, locations like restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship, gyms and museums are required to stop indoor business. It also limits various retail stores to 25% capacity.

But until high school administrators hear guidance from their county or state health departments, they're mostly continuing on the path they started in September and October, though it is a holding pattern. Most Santa Barbara County schools have had students on campus for conditioning workouts for about two months. San Luis Obispo County schools are in a similar boat, with schools like Arroyo Grande and Nipomo high having started on Oct. 5.

The high school athletic season, with actual competitions, is slated to start next month. Most indoor sports teams have begun training indoors. Some indoor training has halted with the announcements Monday, but schools are planning to continue training outdoors.

Nipomo High athletic director Russ Edwards said his school will pause indoor training, meaning the Titans won't use their indoor gym or weight room. Pioneer Valley's boys volleyball team, which had been training indoors, said it is pausing workouts for two weeks. 

Santa Maria High athletic director Brian Wallace said nothing is changing at his school, noting that he and his staff have not let up in adhering to state and local guidelines amid the pandemic.

"I am thankful for the opportunity to provide our student-athletes a safe and much needed outlet," Wallace said Tuesday. "These students are used to practicing and competing on a daily basis, something has been missing since last March.

"As for the season and starting competitions, that will be up to the state, county and school board. All we can do is prepare and be vigilant about our safety protocols."

Righetti High, which had paused workouts two weeks ago amid an outbreak that started with students at neighboring St. Joseph High, resumed workouts on Monday and were continuing them on Tuesday.

"Santa Ynez is still pushing forward with what we have been doing and nothing is changing for us," Santa Ynez athletic director Ashley Coelho said in an email. "We are still on CIF/SBCPH/CDPH guidelines."

The CIF state office, California's largest high school athletics governing body, said Monday that it is waiting on guidance from the state public health office to determine how to prepare for a fast-approaching high school sports season.

"In today's COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Newsom and Dr. Mark Ghaly from the California Department of Public Health disclosed that the release of updated youth sports guidance has been postponed. Therefore, the current guidance remains in effect, and CIF competitions are not allowed until new guidance is provided."

Ghaly is reportedly putting together guidelines for a full sports season that is scheduled to start next month.

In the most recent athletic calendars, sports like cross country, soccer, volleyball and water polo are slated to hold first practices and first actual competitions in December. The CIF Southern Section calendar, for instance, has Dec. 12 as the first contest date for boys volleyball. 

The high school football season for the CIF Southern Section and CIF Central Section start the first week of January. In the CIF Central Section, practices are slated to start Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 in the Southern Section.


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