This Saturday’s game between Florida and LSU has been tentatively rescheduled for December 12.
Florida had at least 19 positive COVID-19 tests, including two assistant coaches, as of Tuesday afternoon, forcing the football program to be put on pause. The spike in positive cases forced the Gators to move to daily coronavirus testing.
Wednesday afternoon Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin reported the following numbers:
18 scholarship athletes have tested positive
3 non-scholarship athletes have tested positive
Between Covid positive cases, and athletes having to quarantine because of contact tracing Florida has less than 50 scholarship athletes that would be able to play in a game held Saturday.
Due to this Stricklin made the decision to put all football activities on pause indefinitely. The football coaching staff has been sent home, as have the players that are not in quarantine. Florida will continue daily COVID-19 testing for the players, coaches, and staff that are not in quarantine. When asked, Stricklin said he did not know the accurate total number of athletes in quarantine as of 2:30 pm on Wednesday.
In the 11 weeks following football players returning to campus in July for mandatory workouts the program had just 10 positive tests. There has been no change to the protocols or safety precautions prior to the spike in cases.
“That’s less than one per week. Protocols have not changed since the calendar rolled over into October but obviously we’re in a different situation,” Stricklin said. “There’s a sense of frustration but we understand this virus can sneak up on you and you can have it spread in an eyelash, really, the bat of an eyelash. That’s what we’re seeing right now.”
A lot was made of the crowd at Kyle Field on Saturday. Stricklin does believe, and the testing would back it up, that Florida’s issues with the coronavirus stem from its trip to College Station. However, Stricklin does not believe it is because of the fans in the stands. While he wouldn’t, or couldn’t point a finger at the precise reason, he was informed by some of the health and wellness staff that several players who have subsequently tested positive began feeling symptoms at the end of the week prior to traveling to Texas A&M.
“They had what they thought were allergy type symptoms,” Stricklin said. “One of them was congested, one of them had a headache and they did not report those symptoms as we have an expectation they do so because they didn’t think it was anything other than seasonal type cold that we experience through allergies or whatever. There’s a suspicion that maybe that is what helped make this an event that had this kind of spread.”
With the speed that this virus has shown to transfer from individual to individual, obviously a player who traveled on an airplane while infected could easily and unknowingly spread it to multiple people.
Stricklin laid out a timeline of how he was informed of everything that happened:
Florida was tested, per SEC guidelines on Sunday morning.
Stricklin received a call from Associate Director of Sports Health Paul Silvestri on Monday morning. Silvestri told Stricklin that a number of players reported symptoms including headaches, fatigue, scratchy throat, etc… and that he was concerned
The team was supposed to have a meeting on Monday morning at 8:00 am but that was canceled
Tests from Sunday started to come back and five new players (Florida had one positive the week prior) tested positive.
Florida decided to test again Monday
Monday results came back on Tuesday and 19 additional players were positive, forcing the program to pause
Tuesday and Wednesday the team was tested again and now 21 players, at least two coaches, and other staff are positive with an undisclosed number in quarantine due to contact tracing.
The SEC mandates that a positive test puts that person in quarantine for 10 days from the onset of symptoms. If a person is quarantined due to contact tracing they must quarantine for 14 days, which then brings into question Florida’s next game against Missouri. The Tigers’ game against Vanderbilt this Saturday was already postponed due to a COVID spread on the Vanderbilt football team. If you follow the SEC guidelines for quarantining the game against Missouri looks like it could also be in question. The earliest symptoms were felt by any athlete is Friday, October 9. Ten days from that would make those players eligible to play on October 24 against Missouri but if a player’s first positive test came on Wednesday, October 14, they would still be in quarantine for the game.
When the SEC made the decision to go to a 10-game, conference-only schedule it was for situations just like this. Florida and LSU are tentatively scheduled to play on a Saturday that was left open on purpose. The fact that it’s a conference-only schedule will also allow games to be scheduled with more flexibility. I asked Stricklin if is a scenario where Florida and Missouri would play, for instance, on a Tuesday (October 27) rather than Saturday, October 24. Those additional days would allow for Florida to return more athletes from quarantine.
“It’s 2020. You never say never,” Stricklin responded. “I don’t think we’re in a position to say something can’t happen right now.”