The California Department of Public Health updated its interim guidance for collegiate athletics and will start allowing teams to practice in groups as large as 75 when outdoors, if the team is able to provide daily antigen testing for COVID-19.
Under the previous guidelines, the state limited teams from practicing in groups larger than 12, which prevented football teams from holding the types of practices necessary to prepare for the upcoming season. The change has been expected for two weeks, since California Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated the state wouldn't prevent a fall football season from taking place.
USC, UCLA, Stanford and California are the schools most impacted because their respective local governments had been waiting for the state to update the guidelines before issuing clearance at the local level. All four will soon implement daily antigen testing through a deal the conference has with an FDA-approved test manufacturer.
"USC and UCLA are allowed to resume practice provided they comply fully to the County's Institute of Higher Education Protocols and the CDPH guidance for collegiate sports," the Los Angeles County of Public Heath said in a statement Thursday.
Stanford, which is located in Santa Clara County, is not yet in the clear.
"We understand the desire of many sports teams to resume practice, just as many businesses are eager to resume. But our county remains in the red tier, where the risk of SARS-CoV-2 spread is considered 'substantial,'" the County of Santa Clara said in a statement Thursday. "The County Public Health Department must consider both the guidance issued by the State of California just last evening, as well as the local risk reduction order, to evaluate whether conditions are present that would enable an activity to safely resume."
With the go-ahead from the state, the local governments will still require athletic departments to submit a "written, facility-specific COVID-19 prevention plan at every facility, perform a comprehensive risk assessment of all work and athletic areas, and designate a person at each facility to implement the plan," according to the update guidelines.
It's unclear how the updated guidelines impact San Jose State because the Mountain West's testing plan called for antigen testing to be done only three times a week, not daily.
San Jose State announced Wednesday that it would shift its football practice site to Humboldt State, which is 320 miles away in Arcata, California, and where the same restrictions are not being enforced. The Spartans are expected to leave Friday and are planning to stay in Arcata until updated state guidelines are implemented and Santa Clara County approves a return-to-play plan.
SJSU's decision to leave the county to practice at Humboldt State was criticized by Santa Clara County.
"With respect to a team holding practice in another county, we are very disappointed to see any team going outside the county to circumvent a process that was put in place to ensure the safety of its players and staff," the county said in a statement.
Counties are not required to follow the state guidelines and have the ability to make determinations about how to proceed on their own, which is why San Jose State is able to practice in Humboldt County.
San Diego State, which like San Jose State and Humboldt State is part of the California State University system, has been practicing in two groups of 45-55 players and is scheduled to transition to full team practices in the coming days, according to a spokesperson for the program. San Diego County is aware of the Aztecs' practice plans.