James Logan High School football team players participate in a practice while maintaining the social distance on July, 17 in Union City. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
The California Interscholastic Federation should abandon any notion of allowing high schools to start football practice Dec. 14 with the intent of playing games in January.
The latest COVID-19 surge in the Bay Area and throughout the state makes the risk far too great for players, coaches and their families.
It’s one thing for the NFL to proceed with its schedule. The players are all adults, the minimum salary is $610,000, each team is spending about $1.5 million for daily tests, and players have the resources to readily quarantine themselves if necessary.
But college and high school football are different.
NCAA member schools make in the neighborhood of $7 billion in television revenue over the course of a season. Few of the players live at home, reducing the risk that they will pass the coronavirus to parents, grandparents and other at-risk friends and relatives. But college sports’ dirty little secret is that players can still lose their scholarships after being hurt or contracting a serious case of COVID-19. Players often pay for their own insurance and are generally responsible for long-term care for illnesses sustained as a member of their team.
Dr. Mark Ghaly
At least the vast majority of college teams have the ability to conduct frequent tests of players. Pac-12 teams, for example, are being tested daily.
High school programs won’t have that luxury. Nor do they have in-house, trained medical staff members to help implement and enforce basic safety precautions. Every player or coach who contracts COVID-19 will pose a potentially deadly threat to the families of every member of the team.
But the Bay Area News Group’s Darren Sabedra reported that the CIF wants to proceed as planned with football practices beginning Dec. 14 and will do so unless told otherwise by state and local health officials.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, told the Southern California Newspaper Group’s Dan Albano that new guidelines will be coming “soon” for competition in high school and youth sports.
The only acceptable guideline is to refrain from practices and games altogether until the pandemic threat is greatly reduced.
California counties on Tuesday reported 8,453 new cases of COVID-19 and 64 additional fatalities. The total number of new cases is the most in a single day since mid-August. The state surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday.
The surge threat has already led Contra Costa and Santa Cruz counties to pull back on efforts to reopen the economy. And if the current trend continues, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties won’t be far behind.
California has wisely put safety first and is one of only six states to have no fall sports for high school teams. Let’s keep it that way.