Palo Alto and Gunn high school student-athletes will be able to again train in person outdoors in stable cohorts starting Jan. 19, the schools announced.
"While sport season schedules have not been finalized, the Paly and Gunn athletic department and staff feel it is important to offer our community the chance to do what they love with the people they care about. These workouts are not just about physical conditioning, but are part of a belief that having fun as a member of a caring community is critical to the well-being of our students," Paly Athletic Director Nelson Gifford and Gunn Athletic Director Curt Johansen wrote in a joint announcement.
Athletic training with health and safety precautions is allowed to resume under updated California Department of Public Health guidelines released in December. The guidance is "aimed at giving communities guidelines on how to safely remain physically active while reducing transmission in their communities, especially at a time when cases are at an all-time high and ICU capacity is stretched near capacity," the California Department of Public Health said.
Students will train outdoors, keeping 6 feet apart, and within stable cohorts. They should "refrain" from participating in more than one team over the same season. Face coverings should be worn at all times, "even in heavy exertion as tolerated," the guidance states. Students and coaches also must wear masks when they're not participating in the athletic activity, such as when standing on the sidelines.
When the high schools first resumed sports practices in the fall, the athletic directors also urged students to not socialize with each other before or after workouts.
Outdoor, low-contact sports that are permissible while Santa Clara County is in the most severe "purple" tier of COVID-19 include badminton, biking, cross country, track and field, golf, yoga, running and swimming. Outdoor high-contact sports like basketball and football can't resume until the county is in the orange tier.
No indoor activity can take place at this time. When Santa Clara County moves into the red tier, however, high school gyms and weight rooms will be allowed to operate at 10% capacity, then 25% and 50% capacity in the orange and yellow tiers, respectively.
High school athletes aren't allowed to compete in games yet. The state Department of Public Health has said competitions can't resume before Jan. 25. Competitions "increase the probability of transmission due to mixing of households, traveling, and unavoidable physical contact," the guidance states, adding that competitions between different teams have been associated with multiple outbreaks in California and across the country.
The district is still planning to offer new in-person activities to small groups of secondary school students starting Jan. 25, Superintendent Don Austin said on Tuesday, with "announcements coming very soon."
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.