Football players are slowly starting to return to play—sort of. The NCAA recently approved plans for the preseason schedule, but teams have already begun voluntary workouts. And it has not gone without incident. As players have reported to campus, they have been tested, and there have been a fair number of positive tests already. At least eight Alabama players, for example, have already tested positive.
Yesterday, the University of Houston suspended voluntary workouts after six players tested positive. The positive tests came from players in multiple different sports, not just football players. The Houston area in general, and Texas at large, has seen a significant spike in positive cases and is becoming the new epicenter in the United States.
The school said that this measure was taken “out of an abundance of caution”, but it also said that they did not test all athletes—only athletes who were showing symptoms. Given that the World Health Organization recently reaffirmed that people who are not showing symptoms are spreading the virus, this seems unwise. It’s likely that more athletes are also infected without showing outward symptoms.
While Houston is the first school to take this step of suspending voluntary workouts, it should be noted that they only started on June 8, and it’s fairly likely that other schools might do the same as we move forward.
“During this pause in voluntary workouts, UH Athletics will continue its stringent cleaning and sanitization protocols in all facilities”, the university said in a statement. “UH Athletics will continue to partner with university officials, UH team physicians and local health professionals to determine best practices as it considers a return to workouts”.
The country has been distracted from the coronavirus in recent weeks as racial injustice moved back into the spotlight and sparked nationwide protests, thereby increasing contact and surely producing further spread of the virus.
But of course the virus hasn’t gone away. Over 27,000 new cases were reported yesterday, with another 800 or so deaths, with total nationwide deaths now nearing 120,000, or roughly three times as many as any other country, with Brazil and the United Kingdom the others who have at least 40,000 recorded deaths.
The US now has had over 2,000,000 total cases, with more than 1.1 million active cases, and over 16,000 deemed to be critical. The county has been averaging well over 20,000 new cases per day since the end of March, and while there have been some lulls, an upward trend is emerging. Yesterday’s total was the highest number of new reported cases since May 28.
California reported over 3600 new cases yesterday. Over 2100 for Texas, 1900 for Florida, 1800 for North Carolina, and 1600 for Arizona. These are emerging as the new epicenters, and all of them are states who have been among the most liberal in their reopening strategies.
Why is all of this relevant, you ask? Because this could potentially be what we’re looking at in the NFL when training camps are expected to open up at the end of July. Everything that happens in American sports between now and then is a case study that the league has to consider as a data point to how they will approach things.