This is going to be a continuing series on this site until a majority of California high school football teams are practicing and getting ready for their first games. Despite the reminder that COVID-19 is still active and producing infections (including the one contracted this week by the President of the United States), more and more counties in the state are trending in the right direction and more and more schools are going to hybrid learning models in which students are on campus at least some part of the week. Go inside here for a statewide outlook as October is just getting underway.
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As October got going this week, more and more counties in California are seeing red. In this case, though, seeing red is good news.
Red is the second tier level for counties in the state as it relates to the state’s four tiers of colors in its map of COVID-19 positivity test results and numbers of cases per 100,000 residents. Purple is the first tier that indicates the highest numbers in those categories and widespread status of the disease. Red indicates substantial status and generally allows for businesses to reopen indoors with 25 percent capacity. Orange is for moderate spread while yellow is minimal. At the yellow level is when it would be more okay to not just have football games but fans being able to go to those games.
The only three counties in the state currently at yellow are Modoc, Alpine and Mariposa counties. But those only represent two high schools with football teams (Alpine doesn’t even have a high school) so it’s more appropriate to follow the bigger counties that have moved from red (substantial) to orange (moderate). The largest of those are Shasta County (10 schools), El Dorado County (includes teams like Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills) and Placer County (includes teams like Del Oro of Loomis, Rocklin, Granite Bay, and more).
When we last did a deep dive on counties opening up and schools reopening with more in-person learning, most of the state was in the purple or widespread stage. Almost the entire Bay Area, with the exception of Sonoma County, has gone to red. A good chunk of the San Joaquin Valley has just this week been moved into the red zone, including Fresno, San Joaquin and Sacramento counties. Parts of the southern valley (including Kern County) are still purple. While L.A. County remains purple along with San Bernardino and Ventura, Riverside County has recently joined Orange and San Diego counties in the red.
If there was no Coronavirus pandemic and the usual high school sports schedule was being followed this year in California, the 2020 regular season in football would be just about halfway done. Instead, we’re still more than two months away from teams that hopefully will be starting to practice for a season beginning in January.
Other states, such as Colorado, have reversed their calendars to allow for a shortened fall football season. California — and the California Interscholastic Federation to be precise — is not going to join that trend. As executive director Ron Nocetti explained to us in a recent interview, even if California wanted to change, it wouldn’t be able to restart until November at the earliest. Being such a large state and one with 10 separate sections only makes such a change even more complicated.
The tradeoff for California kids is that while they won’t have fall football the CIF and its 10 sections are still on track to have a full 10-game regular season and section playoffs for everyone. Plus, it is hoped that the instances of teams having to cancel or postpone games, which has happened in other states, will be few or none at all by a later start date.
The restart of the season in the Pac-12 Conference and Mountain West Conference in football also results in questions about high schools. It was only this week, however, that the state revised its guidelines for cohorts practicing together to an increase of 75 (still with recommendations for groups of only 25 together). That also was a recommendation only for institutions of higher learning and not for high schools.
More good news is that as of October 1 there had not been a significant spike in case numbers and hospitalizations as a result of Labor Day gatherings. There were definite spikes in July from Memorial Day, Father’s Day and 4th of July celebrations. If the trends continue, we should see more counties advancing in their reopenings and more schools getting more students back on campus.
Here is a more localized look at what’s been happening around the state:
CIF SAN DIEGO SECTION
*A headline in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday proclaimed “Most San Diego County school districts have reopened or plan to reopen in October.” The CIF section, of course, also includes Imperial County, which has been much worse in the last few months of the pandemic. At San Diego Unified, which is the second-largest school district in the state, it was reported that in-person sessions for select groups of students will start on Oct. 13, but there’s no date otherwise for reopening. There’s been higher numbers in the South County area of the section and there has been a lot of pressure from parents and coaches in the Sweetwater Union High School District to allow fall practices or workouts to begin. That district’s board has said it’s not going to reopen schools for the fall semester, but lower case numbers figure to make a difference for the practices/workouts in coming weeks.
*Since our last update, it’s been confirmed that 2019 State Junior of the Year Tyler Buchner from Helix of La Mesa will likely continue his plan of graduating early, heading to Notre Dame and thus not playing for the Highlanders in January. He has said he will wait to see what is happening in December to make it more official and he’s right about that. The pandemic and its impacts are literally changing on a day-to-day basis. Buchner played last season at Bishop’s of La Jolla.
CIF SOUTHERN SECTION
*The CIFSS Council had a full zoom meeting on Thursday with media in attendance and listening. CIF executive director Ron Nocetti addressed the group and was encouraging and supportive of efforts to get high school sports back in January. CIFSS commissioner Rob Wigod told the group (according o the OCSportsZone website): ““I’ve had schools ask me are we going to be making adjustments to those calendars and the answer at this point is no. And the reason for that is we wanted to give you as much time as possible when we announced these calendars in July so you could prepare for that mid-December launch all the way through hopefully to mid-June and if we were changing it up again, at this point as we get closer to mid-December, we realized what a disruption that means and how difficult that is going to be. So, please be assured we are going to keep these calendars as they are and what you have already been doing to prepare for that can remain in place as well.”
*Statewide powerhouse Centennial of Corona welcomed its football players back on campus on Thursday for workouts. And remembering that Riverside County is now in the red, we’ve noticed that schools in the Lake Elsinore, Temecula and Murrieta school districts have also resumed in-person workouts.
CIF L.A. CITY SECTION
*It has been reported that officials in the L.A. Unified School District, by far the largest in the state, will be administering baseline coronavirus testing in the next few weeks. There is still no timeline for any hybrid or in-person learning to start and schools also remain closed for physical conditioning. The most recent positivity rate we saw for L.A. County was only 3 percent, but we don’t know the breakdowns for the communities in L.A. Unified. It’s such a large county and district.
*Former Narbonne of Harbor City QB Jake Garcia has been ruled ineligible at Valdosta High in Georgia after he played one game this fall in the Peach State. Garcia, committed to USC, played nine games last season at Narbonne and was supposed to be at La Habra for the current season. He has launched a petition online to aid in his attempt to appeal that eligibility.
CIF CENTRAL SECTION
*In our last update, we mentioned a case that was brought before the State Supreme Court connected to state health guidelines led by administrators/officials at Immanuel of Reedley. The case concerned private schools being held to the same guidelines as public schools when they don’t have the resources of public schools to meet those guidelines. The private schools were not granted relief by the court and will need to continue to abide by the same guidelines as public schools. It’s easy to see, though, that a lot of private schools throughout the state have been granted waivers by their local, county health departments. They generally have K-3 students back on campus with limitations.
CIF SAC-JOAQUIN SECTION
*As mentioned earlier, Placer and El Dorado counties have moved into the orange tier and there were several districts in those counties that have already gone to some type of in-person instruction. One of those was Rocklin Unified. One week later, three Whitney students tested positive for the coronavirus. According to KCRA, 15 others and one teacher were isolated in relation to those infections. On Wednesday night, the school board met to discuss options, including going back to full-time distance learning. The board voted 3-2 to continue with the current plan.
*Further south, Stockton Unified is not close to going to a hybrid model. Teachers and students there will be on a one-week fall break next week and the general consensus remains that the distance learning model will continue through the December holidays. A lot of teachers also remain wary of the hybrid model since they would still have to plan lessons for distance/virtual learners and they already are putting in more hours on distance learning than they were in a classroom.
CIF CENTRAL COAST/NORTH COAST/NORTHERN SECTIONS
*School reopenings and COVID-19 test results have not been the top story in these parts of the state over the past week. It’s been more about devastating wildfires, pumping out thick smoke that probably would have caused school activities and Friday night football games to be postponed or cancelled due to dangerous air quality numbers. In the NCS, the Glass Fire in Napa County west of St. Helena had charred 60,000 acres and destroyed more than 220 homes as of Friday afternoon. The fire also was impacting Sonoma County. In the Northern Section, the Zogg fire in Shasta/Tehama counties had burned nearly 56,000 acres and has caused three people to die. The Zogg fire also is threatening to burn southward and merge with the August Complex fire (which started several weeks ago). If that were to happen, the combination fire could result in one named fire with more than one million acres burned.