As the 2020-21 school year approaches and the COVID-19 pandemic ravages on, UConn athletics will attempt to return to some sense of normalcy as student-athletes begin returning to campus.
Members of the UConn men’s basketball team arrived in Storrs on Friday, June 19, according to a release from the university. The football team will arrive on July 1. Per the release, these two teams are part of the university’s pilot program to help solidify procedures and policies ahead of the rest of the UConn students slated to come back in mid-August.
The UConn women’s basketball was also cleared to return, but elected to come back to campus later on in the summer.
Men’s basketball and football student-athletes must test negative for COVID-19 and then enter a small, “modified quarantine” group. Following a negative test, athletes then must pass a physical exam from UConn team physicians and trainers before beginning workouts. According to UConn, any athlete who tests positive for COVID-19 will enter into an isolation protocol in line with medical guidelines. All athletes will also be provided masks, hand sanitizer and more, and social distancing will be required.
On top of these initial procedures, UConn says athletes and staff will be screened daily before entering facilities. These facilities will also undergo deep-cleaning and sanitization, with high traffic areas like locker rooms and training rooms cleaned daily.
“The health and well-being of our student-athletes and staff is our top priority and I am pleased that we will be able to begin the process of welcoming our teams back to campus,” director of athletics David Benedict said in a statement. “The procedures our teams must adhere to are the product of the hard work and expertise of medical professionals on campus and across our state. I would like to thank everyone involved in the process who helped provide a safe environment for our teams’ return.”
As these athletes come back to campus, it won’t be surprising if there are a handful (or more) that test positive for COVID-19, especially with some coming from former hot spots like New York, New Jersey and southern Connecticut as well as others arriving from newer hot spots like Florida. If that’s the case, they’ll be treated and isolated accordingly, hopefully stopping more infections.
The real issue will be if positive tests keep coming, even as athletes have been on campus for weeks — much like what’s being seen at Houston, Clemson and other schools across the country. If athletes are still testing positive in high numbers across campus, UConn would need to change its strategy on a dime to contain the virus and make it possible to proceed with more students arriving and sports continuing this fall.
That being said, UConn’s plan does seem more robust than schools that have run into issues. Unlike Houston, UConn will be testing athletes directly upon their arrival to campus, which should limit the initial spread as everyone comes back. This doesn’t mean the virus may not be an issue for students and athletes in Storrs this fall, but UConn has done a solid job of putting together a legitimate plan to keep student-athletes safe as they try to carry on with the upcoming academic and athletic year.