CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Less than four weeks since North Carolina football players began returning to campus, the university has paused voluntary workouts for at least a week as a precaution after the Orange County Health Department identified a cluster of positive COVID-19 tests, which is defined as five or more related cases.
Facilities staff members were the first to return to campus on June 1 followed by sports medicine personnel on June 8. Coaching staffs for football and both basketball programs arrived on June 12. The staggered entry approach for the football roster welcomed groups of players on June 12, 19, 26 and 29. Men’s and women’s basketball players returned on July 6.
A UNC press release on Wednesday afternoon indicated that Campus Health and UNC Hospitals have initiated 429 tests of student-athletes, coaches and staff and that 37 of those tests have yielded positive results for COVID-19.
The release outlined university protocol as follows: “Student-athletes who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate for up to 14 days in a campus residence hall specified by the University or at their permanent residence. Coaches and staff members will isolate at home up to 14 days as well. Those identified as close contacts, using the CDC definition for contact tracing, also will self-quarantine for 14 days. These close contacts will be provided instructions regarding quarantine and self-monitoring for potential symptoms and may be tested if they become symptomatic. All students-athletes are monitored closely by Campus Health Sports Medicine.”
UNC is not identifying specific individuals or results.
The football team’s voluntary workouts will resume at a date to be determined. In accordance with the NCAA’s approval of a new six-week preseason model, UNC was scheduled to begin mandatory workouts on Sunday, July 12 for a 14-day window prior to the start of training camp.
The total number of coronavirus cases topped 3 million nationwide on Wednesday. The pandemic death toll has surpassed 128,000. The state of North Carolina also reported a record-high with 994 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on Wednesday.
The surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide has dampened optimism that the 2020 football season will start as originally scheduled. The Ivy League, which was the first conference to cancel its basketball tournament in March, announced on Wednesday that it was canceling all fall sports and that winter sports will not begin until after Jan. 1, 2021.
“It’s not really 100 percent, like what’s going to happen,” UNC running back Javonte Williams said on Tuesday when asked about concerns regarding the 2020 season, “but with Coronavirus, I’d rather it happen now than happen later. Hopefully everything can just go away or happen now and then later by the time the season gets closer, we’ll see less cases.”
UNC is scheduled to open training camp on Aug. 6 and kick off the 2020 season at Central Florida in Orlando on Sept. 4.