Many Florida athletes have returned to campus to resume athletics activities, with mandatory workouts for the football team beginning on Monday.
As they’ve returned, the Gators have been rigorous about following COVID-19 protocols set forth by UF Health. Those protocols include every athlete undergoing COVID-19 tests upon return, as well as a full physical.
Since the return began, Florida has conducted a total of 188 tests on returning athletes as they arrived, returning only three positive results from that group. But the Gators have also conducted additional tests on student-athletes since then based on those athletes showing symptoms associated with the coronavirus or based on their answers to a short health questionnaire they must answer upon arriving to the team facilities at the start of every workout.
Those tests have caught a number of positive cases, with 26 additional positive results being flagged since the initial batch of tests.
In total, as of this weekend, Florida had administered 238 total tests, with 29 positive test results. Athletics director Scott Stricklin did note that some athletes had been tested multiple times.
Those numbers have illustrated the challenges in any sort of return to normal athletics.
“We’ve had a pretty robust screening and testing program and we’ve found some positives,” Stricklin said. “We’ve advanced from March to June as far as how we manage that and how we look at that. One of the things it’s taught us is we do have a way to care for them and provide for athletes while they’re here if they happen to test positive.
“The other thing, though, is it’s really pointed out what a lot of the challenges are going to be related to quarantining. Quarantining healthy people who have had exposure to those who have tested positive, and how widespread that’s going to be.”
Even without vast numbers of students on campus during the summer, the spread of the coronavirus is evident. And due to the quarantine measures in place once student-athletes are flagged positive, it’s been tough to get full teams working out together all at once.
In two different periods over the last two months, Swamp247 has learned through sources that groups of multiple Florida football players have had to be quarantined. In mid-June, five to six players were sidelined after showing symptoms, while near the end of June and into early July the number of players in quarantine reached low double-digits.
“Don’t hold me to these numbers, but maybe a dozen is our high-water mark from a quarantining standpoint,” Stricklin said.
Even Stricklin himself revealed that he tested positive for the coronavirus in June. Though Stricklin’s symptoms were fairly mild, according to his description, he was irked at himself for catching it despite taking precautions.
“My symptoms were mild, so I never really had any anxiety,” Stricklin said. “I was kind of mad at myself that I had put myself in that situation. My family’s fine. I quarantined, they asked me to quarantine for 10 days from the time of onset of my symptoms.
“I started feeling bad one night with a runny nose. It was pretty mild symptoms: congestion, runny nose, a little headache. Woke up the next morning, didn’t feel much better. Slight chills. The first thing in this day and age that goes through your head is ‘I wonder if this is it?’ Called up one of our doctors and they had me tested and found out sometime the next day.”
So while Florida is uniquely well-equipped to handle the coronavirus thanks to its relationship with UF Health, which is one of the state’s most advanced medical facilities when it comes to testing and treatment, it’s clear that the looming decisions in front of the SEC won’t be easy.
The league hopes to wait as long as possible before making any final calls on fall football, likely not announcing anything until near the end of July.
That was the general message from Stricklin on his Tuesday Zoom video conference call with reporters. The league will continue to wait it out, but it will have to find a way to make sure student-athletes are safe if it hopes to resume play.
“Time may not be on our side now like it was a month or two ago,” he said.