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The Arizona Wildcats began their student-athlete re-entry plan last week by welcoming 20 football players who had stayed in Tucson for the spring semester.
They were tested for coronavirus before being allowed to go through voluntary workouts, and all 20 tested negative, athletic director Dave Heeke said in a Wildcat Chat on YouTube.
“So we’re pleased about that, and again we really feel it’s better to do it in small segments, be able to manage those populations so that we don’t run into these moments where we have to shut down and then try to start back up,” he said.
30 more football players will return for workouts on Monday, then another 30 on June 29 before the team’s newcomers arrive on July 9. Soccer and volleyball players will report by July 13. (The re-entry schedule for all fall sports can be seen below.)
“We’re testing them when they come back, we are putting them into isolation for a week before they come into the facility, so we’re taking all of those precautions, and then we’re testing weekly with the student-athletes,” Heeke said.
Other universities returning their student-athletes have seen large swaths test positive for coronavirus, creating concerns about the safety of restarting college sports.
Some examples: Clemson saw 23 football players test positive. “At least 30” LSU football players are in quarantine after testing positive or being in contact with someone who tested positive. Kansas State shut down all football workouts for 14 days after 14 of the 130 athletes it tested were positive.
While UA’s preliminary test results are encouraging, the sample size is small and they do not include student-athletes from other regions of the country or international student-athletes.
Even if they test negative, keeping them healthy could be a challenge even though they will be subject to strict safety protocols. The state of Arizona has seen a spike in coronavirus cases lately, setting daily case records on Friday (3,246), Thursday (2,519) and Tuesday (2,392).
In total, Arizona has reported over 50,000 cases, more than double what it had on June 5, though more than half of those have been reported up north in Maricopa County. Pima County has reported roughly 5,300 cases.
UA student-athletes who test positive for coronavirus may need to be quarantined for two weeks even if they are asymptomatic, according to the school’s re-entry plan.
“Traditionally we have our student-athletes here in the summer, so we want to bring back our basketball players, our other student-athletes to give them a chance to begin to train,” Heeke said. “They’ve been off for such a long time this is going to be an interesting road to bring them forward, get them ready.”
You can read more about Arizona’s re-entry plan HERE.