Tri-Valley Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) last week called on Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials to prioritize guidelines to allow more outdoor school sports to restart "as soon, and as safely, as possible."
In a letter submitted to the Governor's Office on Feb. 10, Bauer-Kahan cited the physical and mental health advantages of sports for youth, as well as the need for sanctioned sports activities with proper protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, among the reasons the state should expedite the process for a "safe reopening of youth sports."
"Sports are an important part of our children’s school experience, an important outlet for their physical and mental health, and an important avenue for many to access higher education opportunities," the second-term legislator said.
"I urge you and the California Department of Public Health to move quickly. The health, safety, and well-being of our children are too important to delay," Bauer-Kahan added.
The California Interscholastic Federation has established timelines for the return of individual high school sports tied to counties' status in the state's colored-tier system for reopening and based on guidance from the state regarding health and safety protocols.
Under the process, some non-contact individual sports have returned to practice and competition in the Tri-Valley, including cross-country, tennis, golf and swimming. Some other outdoor team sports like baseball and softball have firmer start dates if a county is in the red tier, while many others like football, boys lacrosse and soccer -- as do indoor sports like basketball, wrestling and volleyball -- have undetermined dates with time dwindling before the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Local coaches remain concerned about the prospects of their teams competing this term, and the impact that formal cancellation would have on their student-athletes, according to Bauer-Kahan.
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the necessary public health measures and subsequent closure of schools and activities have had an immeasurable toll on the mental and physical health of our youth," she said. "As schools have remained closed and students see another school year slipping away, they are feeling increasingly helpless."
The sooner the state can create new guidelines to expedite the safe return of outdoor sports the better for students, according to Bauer-Kahan.
She also raised concerns about club sports programs and other private gatherings occurring in her district, some of which are unsanctioned or operating without the same level of certifications as required of state-regulated school sports and thus putting players and families at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
"It would be far safer to have our students playing under the supervision of their local teams, athletic directors and qualified coaches under clear guidelines," Bauer-Kahan said. "I am confident that our school coaches and athletic directors will enforce safety protocols and take every precaution that the state and local health departments outlines."
The governor's office has not yet responded to Bauer-Kahan's request, her chief of staff Jordan Curley told the Weekly on Tuesday.