For months the Florida Gators have had positive COVID-19 news by, well, not having positive test results. The University Athletic Association has proudly shared testing numbers but with the general student body returning to campus earlier this month the football team has seen a spike in results.
After two consecutive months without a positive test, the football team has had seven positive tests during the first two weeks of September. Those numbers pale in comparison to Lacrosse (31 positive tests) and baseball (15), both of which have paused all off-season activity due to positive cases.
It’s impossible to expect, and Dan Mullen has said as much, that Florida or any team would go the entire season without testing positive. However, now is not the time to throw all the work you’ve done in the offseason away.
“End of the day, nothing’s promised, but we want to take the steps necessary to be in a position where we have everybody that we need,” linebackers coach Christian Robinson said. “That’s just doing what you’re told to do. We have a great medical staff that helps us. Just do your part. I think in a team setting it’s easier for our guys to understand that because everything we do is team-based.”
Football only accounts for seven of the 61 new positive tests this week but Florida will have to follow strict COVID-19 protocols and many student-athletes who didn’t test positive will have to spend time in quarantine because of contact tracing.
Another issue has crept up and that is the reality of false-positive tests. There isn’t an exact science to combat the virus and, according to Dan Mullen, the Gators have had false positives come up. Florida’s student-athletes are being tested three times a week and that will continue into the season. Let’s say players are tested Monday, Wednesday, Friday. If a player posts two negative results but then is positive on the Friday test they wouldn’t be allowed to play on Saturday. They get re-tested and the next two subsequent tests are negative. That shows the test that kept them from playing was a false positive, but that doesn’t let you go back in time and give the player that opportunity to play back.
“Our medical staff here is doing a fabulous job of everything, creating one of the safest environments in Gainesville if not the state of Florida, here within our football program. And I give a lot of credit to our players. They’ve done an amazing job, I think, obviously anytime you infuse whatever 50,000 students on campus you’re going to have a spike,” Mullen said on Monday. “Our guys, we have a minor one, but I think, you know, when you look at the numbers, if you take out the false positives – I can’t get into the specifics of all of that, I think there are legal issues with those. But I give our guys a lot of credit for what they’ve been able to do and continue to do moving forward.”
Having a small spike now is alright. The players will more than likely be able to recover and play in the September 26 opener but the coaching staff isn’t taking this spike lightly. Everything the Gators have done, and how diligent they have been all offseason can be undone if they don’t continue to take the virus seriously.
“Just knowing at the end of the day that decisions you make when you leave here are going to affect what we do and how we play,” Robinson said. “Just remember that’s not just about you. I think that’s something that gets reiterated on a day-to-day basis regardless of what we’re dealing with. This just happens to be one of the greatest challenges of our time. Our kids have done an amazing job of doing what we ask them to do. It’s not easy. It’s not easy in any way. It’s not easy for anybody. I haven’t seen my family in a long time. But the dreams and goals we have, and aspirations, are high. Our guys have accepted the challenge.”