You're a COVID-19-negative athlete stuck in quarantine due to contact tracing. Now what?

Athletes at Cincinnati have worked out with no more than two others in quarantine and they were instructed to do weekend workouts in their rooms

Out of an abundance of caution, the number of college athletes who have been placed in quarantine since returning to campuses across the country has often been higher than the number of athletes who have actually tested positive for COVID-19. That’s because of contact tracing, which, according to the CDC, “is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and helps protect you, your family, and your community.”

This means that some athletes, who haven’t tested positive, at least not initially, are placed in quarantine after coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive. A school could only have one athlete or staff member test positive for COVID-19, but if the individual isn’t identified quickly and immediately placed in quarantine, any number of other members of the athletics community could potentially come into close contact with the individual during a workout or off-campus interactions.

So what happens next, if you’re asymptomatic and tested negative, but now find yourself isolated from teammates and staff members, while still attempting to maintain a regular workout schedule?

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Out of Bounds obtained the draft of a document, last edited July 24, from the University of Cincinnati titled, “Workout Protocol for Quarantined Athletes on Campus.” It’s designed for athletes who are asymptomatic and have had a negative COVID-19 test, but who came into close contact with someone who tested positive.

The draft obtained by Out of Bounds was edited one day after Cincinnati Assistant AD for Sport Services Lindsay Jaffe sent an email to Director of Housing Carl Dieso, which said, “the new CDC guidelines allow for quarantine student-athletes to workout [sic] one time per day.”

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In addition to recording a negative PCR [polymerase chain reaction] COVID-19 test, Cincinnati athletes must also undergo a blood test prior to quarantine.

“If there are no signs of an active illness/inflammatory process, the athlete will be eligible for daily workouts,” according to the document. The document says the university was reviewing a more frequent testing strategy in late July, which would consist of an athlete doing a “repeat PCR swab test at UCH [University of Cincinnati Health] every 4 days while in quarantine. When available, a POC Abbott PCR test will be done daily while in quarantine.”

The asymptomatic athletes who tested negative must provide daily symptom check-ins from quarantine on a program called Smartabase, which is a product of Fusion Sport – a “global leader in human performance software,” according to its website. In order to be cleared to work out, athletes must not have any flu-like symptoms or a fever. An athlete’s temperature must be below 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Asymptomatic University of Cincinnati athletes in quarantine are allowed to work out daily, Monday through Friday, and the draft of the university’s workout protocol said weekend workouts may be a possibility in the future. In the meantime, “athletes will be instructed to do weekend workouts in their room.”

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Without locker room access, asymptomatic athletes in quarantine are provided a “workout loop” to change into within their room in the Campus Recreation Center. They change and shower in their room, and a new loop is provided for the next morning.

Athletes must wear a protective mask and eye wear, according to the document, and there will be staff members who will escort athletes to and from their workouts. The staff members will also wear gloves during workouts.

Athletes are escorted during a socially distanced, roughly quarter-mile walk from the Campus Recreation Center to the baseball field, which they’ll enter through the right-field gate. The garage doors near left field are opened, with weights moved to an outdoor area in foul territory by the field.

Any conditioning is done on the left field turf.

All workouts must be scheduled and reserved in advance, as well as approved by the Sports Medicine Department.

“Emergency gear will be in place prior to start of strength and conditioning,” according to the document. The cold tub will be filled before an athlete’s workout, and the water and ice is changed between uses.

Sports Medicine and Strength and Conditioning staff members are on-site, within view of the athletes, but any contact with athletes will be in accordance with the university’s personal protective equipment and social distancing guidelines.

No more than three athletes who are in quarantine can work out together during one scheduled workout session. That number is subject to change if distancing requirements aren’t followed or if “the process is identified as being safe for both athletes and staff.”

Athletes’ heart rates and SpO2 (oxygen saturation) levels are intermittently monitored and a workout will be stopped if an athlete shows any symptoms.

At the end of a workout, an athlete is escorted back to quarantine housing. On the way back to the Campus Recreation Center, athletes will pick up a meal and the clothing for the next day’s workout.

Then they’ll do it all again the next day, and the day after that, until quarantine is over.

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Recap of last week’s newsletters

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“According to Wikipedia, the last year in which a college football player didn’t die, for any reason, was 1988. The next year that passes without a football player dying might be the first in a generation, maybe longer.”

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“In the FAU and Illinois surveys, Out of Bounds found that between 15 and 30 percent of fans, depending on the school and the question, said they would no longer plan to attend football games for various health and safety measures this fall, including if there were regulated entrances and exits at the stadium, tailgating not being allowed, their current seat and parking locations being changed due to social distancing, and the marching band not being allowed to play.”

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Thank you for reading this edition of Out of Bounds with Andy Wittry. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it on social media or sending it to a friend or colleague. Questions, comments and feedback are welcome at andrew.wittry@gmail.com or on Twitter.