In a development that underscores the looming difficulty of playing college football this season, the entire Michigan State football team is entering a 14-day quarantine after one staffer and one student-athlete tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement comes two days after the school paused football workout after another staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a Friday announcement, Michigan State revealed the full-team quarantine is in accordance with athletic department policy. The policy also mirrors guidelines released by the NCAA last week that mandate 14-day quarantines for student-athletes who are found to have been in "high-risk" contact with others who have tested positive. That means other schools are likely to be faced with similar situations.
"Based on early results from COVID-19 testing conducted over the last week on football staff and student-athletes, which included a second staff member and one student-athlete testing positive on Thursday, all members of the football team will quarantine or isolate, while awaiting completion of a 14-day quarantine," read the statement from Michigan State. "As part of the athletic department's return to campus policy, student-athletes quarantine when coming into close contact with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19. The university has designated areas available to house individuals in quarantine as needed based upon the living arrangements for student-athletes. Surveillance testing of student-athletes was completed on Wednesday, July 22 as previously planned, and will be repeated prior to their clearance to return to workouts."
According to NCAA guidelines, "high-risk" contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes in which one or more individuals are not wearing masks. Absent daily testing for every member of a program, preventing such encounters will be an immense challenge as football programs prepare to ramp up to 20 hours per week of permitted activity.
Michigan State was the second Big Ten program to announce a pause to workouts because of COVID-19. Ohio State also shut down workouts for six days earlier this month after receiving results from its COVID-19 testing. Schools are not required to disclose if or how many of its athletes and staff members test positive for the virus, but Michigan State has been forthcoming with information in recent weeks.
"As Michigan State football prepared for the beginning of the 20-hour week, during which student-athletes and staff would be in larger groups than they had been during voluntary workouts or the eight-hour weeks, it conducted surveillance COVID-19 testing on all staff members over the weekend, and previously scheduled surveillance COVID-19 testing on student-athletes Wednesday afternoon," the MSU statement read earlier this week. "Late Wednesday afternoon, after testing on student-athletes had been completed, one staff member received a positive result. Michigan State football will pause workouts and will not begin its 20-hour weeks until it receives the complete results from all surveillance testing."
The Spartans announced last week that seven of 402 COVID-19 tests administered to athletes since the return to voluntary workouts had come back positive, including three of 38 who were tested last week.