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Orange County officials have announced the suspension of youth sports across the county.
“At this time, youth sports activities including practices will be postponed until further direction is provided from the state. Currently, there is no scheduled time by which the state will reopen youth sports,” a county press release said Wednesday.
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The county’s decision to postpone youth sports comes on the heels of the Voice of OC reporting on an advisory sent Monday to school district superintendents across the county by Jeffrey J. Riel, general counsel for the Orange County Department of Education, clarifying state orders regarding youth sports, including high school athletics conditioning activities.
“On July 6, 2020, the Orange County Department of Education communicated directly with CDPH (California Department of Public Health) through an Essential Services Inquiry. CDPH has confirmed that at this time youth sports, including conditioning activities, are not permitted,” reads Riel’s letter.
On June 15, the county said in a news release that youth sport practices could restart once again with distancing and public safety measures in place. The county cited the state’s Department of Public Health’s guidelines on day camps. The announcement came on the heels of calls from Supervisor Don Wagner to allow youth sports to resume again.
“The kids need to be out playing soccer and [baseball]. Let’s try to get that going as well. It is past time to do that I think,” Wagner said at a supervisors’ meeting in early June.
Yet in his letter, Riel warned that the state health department guidelines do not allow for youth sports to resume.
Ian Hanigan, chief communications officer for the county’s Department of Education, said in an interview this week that districts started to ask questions about whether current state or local health care orders allow school summer sports camps or programs and high school athletics conditioning activities to reopen after reading a Sacramento news article.
“It appeared that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) was saying pretty definitively that youth sports weren’t currently permitted in any county so we were getting those questions,” Hanigan said. “We reached out to them (CDPH) and got an answer that was pretty definitive and in line with what the CBS article said and that’s when we sent out the legal advisory.”
The county’s Wednesday press release also cites the state Department of Public Health’s guidelines on day camps and fitness facilities as the basis for allowing counties all across the state to resume such activities and notes that California had recently amended guidelines on youth sports practices, team drills and training.
“CDPH’s Industry Guidance for Day Camps indicates that recreational team sports were not permitted under the guidance for day camps. Similarly, CDPH’s Guidance for Gyms and Fitness Centers does not apply to recreational team sports,” reads Reil’s letter.
Molly Nichelson, the public information manager for the County of Orange, said in a phone interview that the California Department of Public Health has sent out emails to different municipalities to clarify that youth sports are not yet allowed to resume.
“We obviously are doing our best to follow guidelines that come out from the state,” Nichelson said.
The California Department of Public Health has yet to issue guidelines on reopening youth sports activities and has indicated that guidance would be released in the future.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.