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San Francisco Health Network

Sports, Dance, and Fitness During COVID-19

Last updated on January 20, 2022

Safer Return Together

On January 10, 2022, Health Order C19-07y was updated to align with new changes from the State of California around Mega-Events thresholds and requirements; and added recommendation to wear higher-quality masks and recommendation for children in schools be up-to-date on vaccination.  The previous revision temporarily suspending certain exemptions to the indoor universal mask requirement remains in effect until February 1, 2022. A Redline is available. C19-07y will continue until amended or rescinded by the Health Officer. Please see the FAQ for more information on C19-07y.

Note: On June 15, 2021, the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy was replaced by statewide COVID-19 guidance for certain settings. The San Francisco Health Officer's declaration of a health emergency arising from the pandemic continues to be in effect.

Summary of changes since December 10, 2021

  • Added clarification that individuals who are up-to-date on their vaccination are not required to quarantine if they are close contacts to a case of COVID-19.
  • Temporary suspension of indoor mask exemption for stable, vaccinated cohorts (update in red strikethrough)

On this page:

General Requirements for the public

Guidance for Youth Sports

How to Stay Safer: tips for reducing risk of COVID-19 while playing sports

Frequently Asked Questions

Key Messages

COVID-19 spreads in respiratory droplets from people's breath. Exercising with other people is higher-risk because people breathe a lot more air when they are exercising. The most important ways to keep COVID-19 from spreading in sports, dance and exercise are:

  • Get vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • Exercise or dance outdoors as much as you can.
  • Stay home if you feel sick or if you are supposed to isolate or quarantine.
  • If you are not up-to-date on your vaccinations for COVID-19, stay 6 feet away from other people and wear a mask indoors.
  • Limit the number of people you exercise or dance with.
  • Protect yourself before and after exercise: carpooling, locker rooms, and team dinners have all led to COVID-19 outbreaks.

General requirements for the public

Vaccination Requirements

Proof of vaccination is required for all individual >12 years of age to enter indoor areas of gyms, recreation facilities, yoga studios, dance studios, and other fitness establishments, where any patrons engage in cardiovascular, aerobic, strength training, or other exercise involving elevated breathing. *This proof of vaccination requirement does not apply to school-based fitness facilities or organized youth sports for those individuals younger than 18 years old.  For youth specific requirements, see below*

Moreover, COVID-19 vaccination is strongly recommended for all participants who are old enough to be eligible for vaccination, as well as coaches, staff and volunteers. Having everyone up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccination will greatly decrease the risk of transmission of the virus among teammates and between teams, and will protect teams against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. It will also decrease disruption in team activities, since individuals who are up-to-date on their vaccination are not required to quarantine if they are close contacts to a case of COVID-19.

Masking Requirements

[NOTE: Effective at 12:01 a.m. on December 30, 2021, the following language, shown in strikethrough, is temporarily suspended until February 1, 2022 due to the surge associated with the Omicron variant.]

Starting October 15, 2021, San Francisco now allows fully-vaccinated people to remove their masks in indoor gyms and recreation facilities that have stable memberships if the following conditions are met:

  • On-site verification that 100% of the people present in the facility are fully-vaccinated
  • Proper ventilation in the facility
  • No recent COVID-19 outbreaks at that facility
  • No guests or other members of the general public
  • No children under 12 years old
  • No persons unvaccinated due to a medical or religious exemption  

Masking requirements are expected to change as local transmission rates of COVID-19 change and as more people become fully vaccinated.  For the most recent masking requirements, please see SFDPH Health Orders

Requirements specific to youth programs and organized sports under 18 years old

Face Masks:

[NOTE: Effective at 12:01 a.m. on December 30, 2021, the following language, shown in strikethrough, is temporarily suspended until February 1, 2022 due to the surge associated with the Omicron variant.]

Fully vaccinated youth teams may now practice indoors without masks if the following conditions are met:

    • Stable cohort of fully vaccinated players, coaches and volunteers
    • Verification that 100% of the people present in the facility are fully-vaccinated
    • Proper ventilation in the facility
    • No recent COVID-19 outbreaks at that facility
    • No guests, other teams or members of the general public
    • No children under 12 years old
    • No persons unvaccinated due to a medical or religious exemption

If there are any unvaccinated youth athletes, coaches or volunteers, everyone is required to wear a face mask when indoors at all times, unless noted below specifically in “Exempted Sports”.  It is recommended, but not required, that face masks be worn outdoors by all athletes, coaches and spectators when physical distancing is not feasible.

If you have trouble breathing while you are practicing or competing in a mask, you should remove yourself from play/go to the sidelines to remove your face mask and catch your breath. Be sure to keep your distance from other people while your mask is off, unless you are getting medical attention.

Face Masks: Exempted Sports

There are a limited number of activities for certain indoor sports where wearing a face mask is not feasible and therefore, an athlete may remove their mask regardless of their vaccination status.

  • Water sports, such as swimming, water polo, or diving, while participants are in the water. Participants must wear face masks when not in the water.
  • High-contact indoor sports such as wrestling or certain martial arts if masks cannot be worn during matches. Participants must wear masks when not actively engaged in a match.
  • Lower contact indoor sports such as competitive cheer or gymnastics during activities like tumbling or flying, where a mask might obstruct vision. Participants must wear face masks at other times.

SFDPH requires testing of participants and personnel not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 in high-contact indoor sports with mask exemptions regardless of location.  These sports are: water polo, wrestling, and certain martial arts with sparring.  SFDPH also requires testing of unvaccinated participants and personnel for low or moderate contact sports with mask exemptions only at school sites.

  • Testing must be weekly with PCR, other nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), or an antigen test.
  • If participants decline testing, they may not participate in the sport.
  • Unvaccinated personnel must either sign a release of information for test results to be shared with the school or program, or commit to notifying the school or program within 1 hour of a positive or inconclusive result, and within 24 hours of a negative result.

Additionally, CDPH recommends weekly testing of children and youth in indoor TK-12 school-based activities where masks are not worn, regardless of vaccination status. This recommendation applies to all programs and sports that take place at a school site, even if the activity is not supervised or operated by the school.  For more details, please see SFDPH Guidance for Youth Programs.

 

Summary of SFDPH Testing Requirements for Mask-Exempted Sports for Youth

Activity

Not at a school site

At a school site or supervised/organized by a school (even if not during school hours)

Indoor low- or moderate contact:
• Swimming and diving
• Competitive cheer or
gymnastics if unmasked

Not Required

All participants, staff and volunteers not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 must be tested once a week (PCR/NAAT or
antigen).

Indoor high contact:
• Water polo
• Wrestling, if unmasked
• Certain martial arts with
sparring, if unmasked.

All participants, staff and volunteers not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 must be tested once a week (PCR/NAAT or
antigen).

Participants who are fully vaccinated do not need to be tested.

All participants, staff and volunteers not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 must be tested once a week (PCR/NAAT or
antigen).

Participants who are fully vaccinated do not need to be tested.

Additional considerations for children & youth under 18 years old

Medical clearance is required to return to exercise after COVID-19. Children and youth under 18 who test positive for COVID-19 must be evaluated and cleared in writing by a health care provider before they can return to their sports team or dance/fitness group. This is because COVID-19 can cause myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Myocarditis can cause sudden death during exercise.

Tips for how to stay safer

Get Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccination, including boosters is strongly recommended for all participants who are old enough to be eligible for vaccination, as well as coaches, staff and volunteers. Having everyone up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccination will greatly decrease the risk of transmission of the virus among teammates and between teams, and will protect teams against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. It will also decrease disruption in team activities, since individuals who are up-to-date on their vaccination are not required to quarantine if they are close contacts to a case of COVID-19.

Face Masks

Even when not required, face masks are still one of the most effective ways to keep COVID-19 from spreading when people are close together and breathing hard.  Encourage use of face masks whenever you are in close proximity to other people.

Symptoms & Exposure Checks

Check yourself for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure before you leave for your game, practice, or group. Stay home if you're sick or if you are supposed to isolate or quarantine.

Shared equipment

You can share equipment like bats or gloves. Sanitize or wash your hands right before and after you use shared equipment.

Spectators

If you play outdoors, masking is recommended when physical distancing of spectators is not feasible.

For indoor sports, all spectators must wear masks.

Cohorts

Limiting the number of different people or maintaining a stable group of the same people who play sports, dance or exercise together lowers the risk of a team or group being exposed to COVID-19. 

Competitions

For organizers, hosts, and coaches:

  • Recommend requiring masks for all players and spectators even if competition is outdoors due to mixing of many different households and individuals during a competition.
  • Socializing with other teams is strongly discouraged. See “Protect yourself off the field,” below.
  • Encourage use of venues with enough room for all players and any spectators to stay socially distant.
  • Consider scheduling matches far enough apart in space or time, so that teams that aren't competing don't interact with each other, for example, when leaving or arriving for games.
  • Keep a list of all players, staff and volunteers at each competition, including information needed to determine who may have been exposed if a competitor or coach tests positive for COVID-19 (e.g. starting heat and wave times for races, tennis doubles partners).
  • Teams traveling outside of the Bay Area are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines for quarantine after travel.

Protect yourself off the field

COVID-19 often spreads off-the-field, especially when groups let their guard down and eat or socialize together with their masks off.

On the sidelines, water breaks and snacks, keep your distance from others and do not share water bottles.

Team meals or parties: Parties and gatherings, especially indoors and when there is food or drinks, are high-risk situations for the spread of COVID-19. Avoid hosting indoor gatherings with food or drink whenever possible.  If hosting a team gathering, take steps to minimize risk by hosting outdoors, keeping people distanced if they will be eating/drinking and encourage masking when not eating or drinking.  

Carpooling:  Vans and other shared vehicles are high-risk for COVID-19 because vehicles are small, enclosed spaces where people cannot stay physically apart. 

  • Try to carpool with the same stable group of people each week
  • Open the windows. Turn the fan on high and set it to outdoor air
  • Encourage everyone in the vehicle to wear a face mask

Locker rooms are high-risk for COVID-19 because they are small and often poorly ventilated:

  • Arrive dressed to play as much as possible. 
  • Use locker rooms only to change or use the restroom.  Avoid using the locker room for coaching or pregame, halftime or postgame talks.
  • Consider limiting the number of people who can be in the locker room at one time, so people can keep distant.

Frequently asked questions

1. I am a 16-year-old going to a non-school based gym, do I need to show proof of vaccination to be indoors and play basketball with my friends?  Yes, if you are an individual older than 12 years old and are entering an indoor gym for personal exercise or recreation, you will need to show proof of vaccination. 

2. I am a 16-year-old playing basketball on a youth league, do I need to show proof of vaccination to be indoors and play basketball with my team? No.  Currently, there is not a vaccination requirement for youth under 18 years old to participate in organized sports either through schools or other organized youth leagues.  Therefore, if a youth athlete is entering an indoor recreation facility to play with their organized sports team, they do not need to show proof of vaccination. 

3. Our youth soccer team has members between 12-18 years old, but everyone is fully vaccinated and we practice at indoor recreation facility, can we remove our mask during practice indoors?
Yes, but only if everyone, including coaches, volunteers, and spectators, are fully vaccinated, no one has a vaccination exemption, there are no children less than 12years old in the space and the same people are at your practice every time.  If there are occasional guests, like a parent spectator that does not always come, then everyone must remain masked, regardless of the vaccination status of the guest.  

4. Our youth indoor soccer team is fully vaccinated and we are playing against another team that is also fully vaccinated.  Can we play our match without masks? No, when two groups play each other, that is no longer a “stable group” of individuals.  Generally speaking, masks must be worn by everyone for all indoor competitions and games, unless the sport has a specific mask exemption where the athlete is unable to wear a mask, like swimming.

5. Our team has the same fully vaccinated spectators that come to watch every practice and every game, can we remove masks indoors while the teams are playing? No, same as above.  The two teams playing are not considered a “stable group” since the two teams (and their spectators) are not together for every practice or game.  Generally, everyone must be masked for games between teams. 

6. Do adults who come to watch a youth team play indoors have to show proof of vaccination to be inside the facility?   Yes. If the sports or recreation facility requires proof of vaccination for entry, then you must show proof of vaccination even if you are only a spectator.  If the youth team is playing at a school site, spectators are required to follow the guidelines specific to the school site.  

7. We are a youth water polo team with some vaccinated players and some unvaccinated players.  Do all of us have to get tested for COVID-19 regularly?  CDPH recommends that everyone be tested regularly due to the higher-risk nature of playing indoor high-contact sports without a mask, however, SFDPH requires only players, staff and personnel not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 be tested for COVID regularly.

8.Who is responsible for verifying that everyone is vaccinated when they are doing sports indoors? For the general adult public, the recreation facility is responsible for vaccination verification of everyone who enters the indoor areas of that facility.  For organized youth sports, if a sports team is choosing to practice without masks because their team is fully vaccinated, the coach or other designated sports team organizer must verify the vaccination status of each player and staff person, maintain a record of that verification and be able to provide that record upon request to SFDPH.