A South Bay basketball team that defied health orders by participating in a tournament last month has been linked to nearly 100 Covid-19 cases across three counties.
Without disclosing the name of the private youth program, Santa Clara County officials today said the outbreak spread to its coaches, players and dozens of their close contacts.
By Thursday, authorities identified 77 positive cases in the South Bay alone, including 39 child athletes, three coaches and 35 people with whom they interacted.
The remaining 17 live in other counties.
All 94 cases shared the tournament in common.
The event took place Nov. 7 and 8 in Placer County. A website for the tournament says it was hosted by Hotshots Youth Basketball League and was open to boys 8 and under and girls 13 and under through varsity levels.
On Thanksgiving weekend, news of coronavirus infections that spread to dozens of people associated with the tournament made national headlines. But the announcement today shows that the outbreak was far from over.
Thirty-three of the 37 players and all three coaches who traveled from Santa Clara County to the November tournament contracted the virus, local public health officials told reporters Friday. That the event took place indoors, involved physical contact and lasted for hours a day contributed to the spread, they added.
Because of those risks, state and local health orders prohibit competition between youth sports teams and ban indoor athletic activity without masks and distancing. The California Department of Public Health has launched an enforcement investigation into the Hotshots Youth Basketball League for violating those mandates.
Officials said the outbreak serves as a stark example of how flouting public health rules can lead to chains of infection that accelerate an already out-of-control pandemic.
Outbreaks from professional, collegiate and youth sports have been widely reported throughout the nation, public health officials noted, which is why they’re subject to so many pandemic-related restrictions.
“This outbreak is a troubling reminder that the widespread prevalence of Covid-19 in our community threatens all of us, and does not limit itself to geographic boundaries,” Santa Clara County Assistant Public Health Officer Dr. Monika Roy, said in a press release. “Public health orders, directives, and guidance around contact sports and sporting events are in place for a reason. The risk of transmission in these settings can easily result in community spread that threatens the most vulnerable among us.”
The South Bay basketball team not only broke health orders by attending the tournament, it also failed to comply with legal requirements to report the infections in a timely manner. By failing to alert authorities when they should have, county health experts say the people in charge of the basketball team hindered attempts to map out the chain of infections and scope of the outbreak.
“As cases, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions continue to soar to record levels with no sign of slowing in Santa Clara County or across California, each of us must take every possible step to protect ourselves and our loved ones from transmission of Covid-19,” county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. “We risk continued, uncontrolled spread of the disease throughout our community and even more loss of life if we don’t each do absolutely everything we can to limit contact with anyone outside of our own household.”
The state’s acting state health officer, Dr. Erica Pan, echoed Cody’s warning.
“If Californians do not stay home as much as possible, our hospitals will overflow in a matter of days,” she cautioned in a prepared statement. “This outbreak is an example of people engaging in activities that put their friends and loved ones at great risk of serious illness and death, which we are seeing statewide. We ask that everyone take seriously their responsibility to protect the entire community.”