California’s COVID-19 suspension of youth sports competitions is expected to end next week, but the state’s top public health official on Tuesday voiced reservations about the timeline and said it could change.

The decision will affect when high school athletes can get back on the field.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said the state is in talks with the California Interscholastic Federation, the organization that oversees high school sports, about when students can return to play.

Ghaly at a news conference said he didn’t want to get too far ahead of those conversations even as he cautioned that COVID-19 continues to surge across the state. Most of the state remains under stay-at-home orders because of the pandemic.

“But obviously the state of the surge and the conditions in many, many of our communities are pretty dire, pretty significant, so trying to work with those different partners to make sure that we land in a place that allows us to do what we’ve always wanted to do, which was resume activities that so many people miss but do it safely,” he said.

Ghaly’s remarks come as the CIF Southern Section, representing Southern California, announced it is canceling fall sports playoffs and championships for assorted sports, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.

They also come as the CIF has promised to crack down on its 1,500 member schools that play in unsanctioned interscholastic competitions.

Over the weekend, student athletes led protests at more than 130 sites across the state, as part of the “Let them play” protest movement calling on state officials to lift the ban on interscholastic sporting events.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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