All University of Michigan athletics will be paused for two weeks starting Sunday, Jan. 24 in accordance with a recommendation from the state health department according to messages obtained by The Daily and confirmed by a source close to the athletic department. The order, which halts all athletic activity including practice, is limited exclusively to U-M athletics after a recent influx of positive cases within several Michigan teams.
According to a statement released by the athletic department Saturday night, the Wolverines have been following Big Ten testing and reporting protocals, but the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is taking a more stringent approach to the novel COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant.
A source told The Daily that there were five confirmed cases of the new variant, with 15 more presumed positives throughout the athletic department. The novel strain was first introduced to Michigan at the beginning of the semester by a U-M athlete traveling from the United Kingdom. All members of the athletic department are expected to quarantine for 14 days.
"Canceling competitions is never something we want to do, but with so many unknowns about this variant of COVID-19, we must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools," said athletic director Warde Manuel in the statement released Saturday night.
An MDHHS spokeswoman confirmed that five cases of the variant were found on Michigan athletic teams. An MDHHS memo provided to The Daily laid out the state’s recommendations for the next two weeks. Those include:
- Immediate 14-day quarantine for all Michigan athletes, household members and close contacts starting from Jan. 23
- A review of all positive test results in the past two weeks
- Immediate PCR testing of all team members, including genetic sequencing of any positive tests
- Thrice-weekly PCR testing during quarantine
- The assumption that all cases linked to the outbreak are variant infections, pending confirmation
The memo also provides campus-wide recommendations, saying that if the variant is detected in an organization, there should be twice-a-week PCR testing for all members of that organization. It also recommends ramping up testing for the entire community, and a 10-day quarantine for any students returning to campus from out of state or abroad.
This past week 22 student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19 per release, 13 more than the week prior. No coaches or staff tested positive.
As of Sunday morning, 87.2% of Michigan’s athletic contests have been played. By the end of Jan. 6, that percentage will plummet to 59.6%. Saturday, the women’s basketball team rescheduled its postponed game against Michigan State for this week. The Wolverines had their own outbreak in early December after a match against Butler in which a Bulldog tested positive the day after the game, leading to two missed games.
The men’s basketball team played on Friday at Purdue, even as a Boilermaker tested positive the day of the game. The volleyball team had their opening contest against Penn State this weekend postponed because of positive tests within the Penn State program.
While reports indicate that neither of the basketball programs or hockey programs have had no positive tests, they still not will be allowed to play.
According to the release, no determination has been made on how the pause will impact schedules after Feb. 7.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Note: A previous version of this story stated that MDHHS ordered Michigan Athletics to pause, but the MDHHS clarified in an email that it was a recommendation.
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