The City of Long Beach provided an update on Monday regarding youth sports and how they will be permitted to safely resume organized activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. While teams will be permitted to conduct conditioning and other individualized activities with their players, there will be no competition allowed for the time being. The city also expects a new health order to be released this week which will expand on the safety protocols surrounding the resumption of youth sports activities.
“Unfortunately, at this time, in order to minimize unnecessary exposure and the amount of exposures, tournaments, events and other competitions between teams will not be allowed,” said City of Long Beach health officer Dr. Anissa Davis in a statement on Monday.
Dr. Davis went on to outline several safety guidelines for youth sports teams as they begin to resume organized activities. All youth sports activities will need to take place outdoors, with physical distancing maintained between each player and between the players and coaches. Furthermore, all players, coaches, family members and other spectators will be required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth during practices, unless the athlete is engaged in a particular activity like swimming or jogging by themselves. Furthermore, all participants should be screened for symptoms as well as any possible COVID-19 exposure prior to participating in any group activity.
Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine director Brent Dennis discussed the safety guidelines and what parents and coaches should be looking to accomplish with any organized team activities.
“It really should be at this moment just about conditioning, fitness training and some of the individualized skills,” Dennis said on how youth sports teams should resume activity under the updated guidelines. “As the Parks, Recreation, and Marine Department we have two sports camps that are following these CDC-based protocolos, with physical distancing, the use of masks, washing your hands whenever possible and sanitizing any surfaces that are commonly touched. We have a soccer camp at El Dorado and a baseball camp over at Heartwell, and those are focused on conditioning and skill building.”
Dennis said that the department is working to place signage at parks and fields around the city to make sure participants are fully aware of the new guidelines. Furthermore, they plan to have “park ambassadors” on hand to answer questions and distribute flyers with safety information. According to Dennis, it is still recommended to keep the size of the workout groups to fewer than 10 participants, even with masks and physical distancing.
“The rule of thumb has been 10 or less,” stated Dennis, who took over as director on July 6 of this year. “For a baseball team or a soccer team where you’re going to have more than 10 players, most coaches have assistant coaches that can break their team up into smaller groups. For me, it’s all about the optics. You could have 20 kids out there but if they’re all eight feet apart, it’s still going to look like a huge event.”
Recently, according to Dennis, some outside groups have organized competitive sporting events at Long Beach’s park fields, bringing in parents, spectators and officials.
“This is all out of compliance with what current health orders are defining,” Dennis said of the unapproved games. “I sympathize with the community, but if we’re going to get through this we’ve got to do it together … I think the optics of some of these groups or individuals who stray from the spirit of the orders makes it tough for a greater community that’s being patient and understanding, and really wants to get through this together with each of us doing our part.”
As youth sports activities resume, the City will require any “case clusters” be reported to the Long Beach Health Department. A cluster is defined as having three or more cases occurring on one team within a 14-day span. Coaches and parents must immediately contact the health department at (562) 570-4636 to report any clusters. The Health Department will then assist with specific infection control guidance and site-specific control measures to help contain possible spread.
The city expects the full health order to be available sometime this week, with additional information on protections for sports facility staff, infection control, cleaning measures, and more. The changes to the current health order do not pertain to collegiate sports or adult sports leagues, which must remain closed. Any questions regarding the updated health order should be directed to (562) 570-INFO.