New state guidelines released on March 4 allow for prep football to return with strict testing and other requirements.
Players and support staff from Ceres, Central Valley and other high schools in Stanislaus County are required to undergo COVID testing before each contest.
“The district (Ceres Unified) got the tests for us and from there the sites took over,” Central Valley Athletic Director Greg Magni said. “This is something we’re going to do regularly to be compliant.”
“We’re following the CDPH (California Department of Public Health) guidelines,” Ceres High Athletic Director John Bussard added.
Bulldog and Hawk athletes and coaches were tested for coronavirus for the first time during last Thursday’s practices.
Central Valley and Ceres High administered 94 and 75 tests, respectively.
“We wanted to do it earlier to make sure we meet all the requirements in order to play,” Magni said. “It will be much quicker next time now that the kids and coaches are registered with the company. We feel more comfortable with the process.”
“It was different,” Bulldogs’ junior receiver/defensive back Verlis Smith said. “We’ve never had to do this before. But it’s what we got to do in order to play. We don’t have a choice.”
“We all understand why,” Ceres High senior running back/linebacker Amare Padilla said. “It’s something we’re willing to accept. It’s a minor inconvenience.”
“We got to keep each other safe,” Hawks’ senior quarterback Isaiah Hidalgo said.
Negative test results of all athletes and support staff must be provided within 48 hours of each competition, and schools must implement plans for contact tracing and quarantining, if needed.
All athletes and staff who test positive or are clinically diagnosed with COVID-19 disease must isolate:
· For 10 days after symptoms first appeared (or 10 days after specimen collection for their first positive test);
· At least 24 hours have passed with no fever (without use of fever-reducing medications); and
· Other symptoms have improved.
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 but never develop symptoms, can return to work or school 10 days after the date of specimen collection for their first positive test.
Individuals identified as close contacts (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) must follow state and local public health directives or orders for quarantine, regardless of the frequency of testing for those in the cohort or footprint. Close contacts must quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure.
Ceres High and Central Valley will receive 150 and 120 testing kits, respectively, from the district office each week.
“It doesn’t cost us anything,” Bulldogs’ Athletic Director John Bussard said. “The state’s paying for it.”
The guidelines also state that when traveling to away games, teams must remain in a team cohort, with no mixing with the local teams or other members of the host community.
Football is the first sport to utilize COVID testing and must do so weekly until the daily case rate is below seven per 100,000 residents.
The previous guidelines stated that high- and moderate-contact sports such as football, soccer and water polo could only be played in counties with an adjusted daily case rate of 14 or fewer per 100,000 residents.
Stanislaus County’s case rate dropped down to 13.6 on March 9.
Ceres High and Central Valley will kick off the 2020-21 season this Friday at CUSD Stadium.
The Bulldogs will battle the Grace Davis Spartans at 5 p.m.
The Hawks will face the Johansen Vikings at 7:30 p.m.
Fan attendance will be limited as players, coaches and cheerleaders will be allocated just two tickets each.
Kristina Hacker and Angelina Martin contributed to this report.