CIF reverses, allows athletes to participate in same-season club and school sports

STORY BY GARV VIRGINKAR, PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

Note: At the moment, Santa Clara County cohorting restrictions still prohibit participation on multiple teams.

The California Interscholastic Federation has reinstated its waiver of Bylaw 600-605, allowing student athletes to participate in both school and club sports through the same season.

This latest development, according to the CIF, follows clarification from the California Department of Public Health that language in its Dec. 14 youth sports guidance regarding multi-team participation is a “recommendation,” rather than a mandate.

Football is an exception to the ruling, and athletes in the sport are still barred from participating in both school and club sports during the same season; the CIF cited the full contact nature of the sport, as well as consultation from its own sports medicine advisory committee and California law regarding full-contact practice limitations.

No guidance was provided as to if this will be revised at a later date, but no football athletes have currently lost eligibility in relation to the decision as there have been no CIF football games. 

Under typical circumstances, the CIF does not permit athletes to participate in same-season club and school sports, but had rescinded that rule during the pandemic to allow athletes to play in club sports while school seasons had not yet started. That decision, however, was reversed last month following new state guidance, but in yet another reversal, has been reinstated again today.

County to vaccinate residents age 65 and up regardless of healthcare provider or insurance

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN AND GARV VIRGINKAR

Santa Clara County will now begin vaccinating all residents age 65 and up regardless of health care provider or insurance. 

This latest development comes after county officials just weeks ago expressed frustration with a “chaotic” distribution process, and as the county now approaches 1,500 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic a year ago. Individuals over the age of 65 account for nearly 85% of the total deaths in the county, officials noted.

“We are willing and able to distribute the vaccines and we have the infrastructure,” said County Executive Officer Jeff Smith. “However, the big caveat is that we need to get enough vaccines, and the limiting factor is the manufacturing.”

The county is implementing a “no wrong door” approach that allows eligible residents to get vaccinated at any site, whether it be with a private partner such as the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, or a public site such as the recently opened vaccination center at the Mountain View community center. 

“We still have scarcity of this vaccine, we still have a limited supply, and frankly we still have a chaotic environment with changing state guidance almost daily,” said County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. 

Eligible residents can schedule an appointment at vax.sccgov.org.

State lifts regional stay-at-home order

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN AND GARV VIRGINKAR

The California Department of Public Health has lifted stay-at-home orders across the state, following a rise in four-week ICU capacity projections above 15% in the three regions still under the order as of yesterday.

Counties will now revert back to the coronavirus tier system, in which restrictions are determined based on coronavirus cases and test positivity rates. A majority of Bay Area counties will continue to sit in the purple tier. 

The Bay Area’s ICU capacity is currently at 23.4%, with health officials noting that the four-week projection is also above the 15% threshold.

As during the stay-at-home order, non-essential businesses are still required to remain shuttered, while restaurants are able to open for outdoor dining only.

Hair salons, barber shops, retail stores, malls, outdoor museums, zoos and essential businesses may remain in operation with limited capacity.

Additionally, season one high school sports in the Santa Clara Valley Athletics League are now permitted to begin competition on Feb. 15.

CIF bars athletes from playing same-season club and school sports

STORY BY GARV VIRGINKAR, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN

Student athletes will no longer be able to participate in both school and club sports over the same season, following a decision from the California Interscholastic Federation to re-enact restrictions on participating on both school and club teams. 

The reversal is effective immediately, and comes in light of new guidance from the California Department of Public Health barring athletes from participating in more than one athletic cohort during the same season.

The current ruling returns to pre-2020 policies which did not allow students to play both high school and club sports during the season. The policy was originally changed during the pandemic to allow students to participate in their club sport while school seasons had not officially started. 

If a student has already participated in club sports outside of CIF, their eligibility to play high school sports is not impacted. There are currently no students who have lost eligibility due to the decision, CIF noted. 

CIF did add that if public health guidance changes in the future, the league may amend or revisit the issue. 

Additionally, CIF has extended the waiver filing period for students who transferred to a different school due to financial difficulties resulting from the coronavirus through the end of the 2021 school year. In essence, students will be able to play sports for a different school if they were forced to transfer due to coronavirus-related financial difficulties.

SCVAL approves truncated calendar, may have little immediate effect

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN AND GARV VIRGINKAR, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN

The Santa Clara Valley Athletic League today approved a modified calendar for the 2020–2021 season that tiers sports returns by risk and level of coronavirus transmission.

The schedule slates cross country, girls golf, girls tennis, swimming and diving to start practices on Feb. 1, and competition on Feb. 15 — all of those season one sports are presumably determined to be low-risk, which the California Interscholastic Federation allows competition for in the purple tier of coronavirus transmission.

But the mid-February return date may mean little, given the fact that competition is contingent upon the Bay Area’s stay-at-home order being lifted by that time. In order for that to happen, the region’s four-week projected intensive care unit (ICU) capacity must rise above 15%.

Currently, the state’s coronavirus dashboard has the Bay Area’s ICU capacity at 6.6%, and notes that the four-week projection is below the 15% threshold. 

The league’s schedule allows a delay of up to six weeks if stay-at-home orders are extended, but competition for the first season must end prior to April 5. Voluntary conditioning, however, is permitted regardless of the tier of coronavirus transmission or whether a stay-at-home order is in place.

View the entirety of the approved schedule here.

Newsom proposes to provide schools with $450 per student for in-person instruction

STORY BY GARV VIRGINKAR

Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a revised school reopening plan this morning, the centerpiece of which is a $2-billion grant from the state government in order to aid schools in their transition to in-person instruction. 

If approved in January, the funds will provide districts that open for in-person instruction $450 dollars per student; the state will give priority aid to schools with large numbers of low-income students or English learners. 

The state is targeting mid to late spring as the timeframe for students’ return. 

The governor cited recent studies showing that schools which have implemented standard safety procedures such as mask wearing and social distance do not act as superspreader events. 

Under the purple tier of coronavirus restrictions — which much of the state is still under — schools that had not begun in-person instruction prior to the purple shift are prohibited from reopening for in-person instruction.

Teachers will be given priority for vaccination, and all staff and students will be given and required to wear personal protective equipment. A public database tracking infections and positive tests within schools will be launched in the near future. 

Newsom maintains that the priority for reopening is still to bring younger students, mainly those in grades TK–2 into the classroom first, citing lower rates of depression and both social and emotional development; older students will be phased in through the spring.

“[In-person learning] is especially important for our youngest kids, those with disabilities, those with limited access to technology at home and those who have struggled more than most with distance learning,” Newsom said. 

COVID-19 is the projected third leading cause of death in Santa Clara County

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN AND GARV VIRGINKAR

Since the first confirmed coronavirus case in late January — with the first death following just days after — the county has seen a total of 65,288 positive cases and 652 deaths; that makes COVID-19 this year’s projected third leading cause of death in the county, behind only cancer and heart disease. 

A reminder of some the County’s coronavirus restrictions:

  1. “Social bubbles” are prohibited given the stay-at-home order, which bars gatherings with members of other households.
  2. Travel is highly discouraged, with a mandatory 10-day quarantine for travel 150 miles outside of County boundaries.

Despite warnings from public health officials and a restrictive stay-at-home order, hospitals have seen a surge in coronavirus cases through the holiday season — likely due to family gatherings and travel. The daily death toll has nearly doubled since before Thanksgiving, going from three to almost six deaths per day.

“If you have plans to travel, go home and cancel them,” County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a press conference last Wednesday, December 23. “Cancel your travel plans. Celebrate over the phone, over social media, over Zoom. Cook a meal in your home and enjoy it with just the people in your home. It can save a life. It will save a life and it’s very important to do. … If we have a surge on top of a surge, we will definitely break. We cannot afford that.”

Only 39 available ICU beds remain in the county, with eight hospitals having fewer than five available beds and three hospitals having fewer than 10. Remaining ICU capacity in the Bay Area region sits at 9.5 percent, with a similar 9.5 percent test positivity rate over the last 14 days.