For the second time this offseason, East Carolina has paused all football activities due to COVID-19 cases among the team.
In an alert sent out late Thursday afternoon, the university said it has identified clusters of COVID-19 cases on campus, including “10 positives associated with the football program.” Another cluster of seven positives was identified from a residence hall. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines a “cluster” as five or more cases that are “deemed close proximity in location.”
As it relates to football, ECU athletic director Jon Gilbert said activities will be paused indefinitely, all affected players will be placed in isolation and contact tracing will be conducted. Those found to be in close contact with infected individuals will be quarantined.
"Today's decision to pause all football activities comes in consultation with our medical staff after reviewing our latest test results," Gilbert said. "We will continue to monitor all of our student-athletes on campus and take all the necessary actions to follow all safety protocols established at the local, state and national levels.”
ECU previously was forced to shut down athletic activities in all sports on July 14 after 27 positive tests (out of 452) across the department. Workouts then resumed a week later.
East Carolina was originally scheduled to open its season against Marshall on Aug. 29, but that game was recently pushed back to Sept. 12.
Positive tests come as student body returns to campus
The Pirates have been practicing for several weeks (camp opened July 31), but a new variable emerged when the general student population returned to campus as in-person classes began Aug. 10. A first cluster of positive tests was announced by the university on Aug. 17 at another residence hall. Now ECU is up to three clusters a little more than a week into the semester.
ECU is not alone. Schools like Notre Dame, North Carolina and NC State have all reported rising COVID-19 numbers with students back on campus and moved classes online as a result.
While leaders at schools like Syracuse and Penn State admonish their student body of young adults for, well, acting like young adults (why would they really expect anything different?), Michigan State decided to shift to a fully online model for the fall semester. MSU students were slated to return to campus ahead of the semester’s Sept. 2 start date (athletes can stay, even though the Big Ten postponed fall sports).
Don’t be surprised when others — even in conferences moving forward with football — follow suit, even if it does further exemplify that, as UNC professor Jay Smith told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, “amateurism truly is a myth.”
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