The Loyola men’s basketball team announced Nov. 16 it had stopped practicing due to positive COVID-19 cases among personnel. A day later, sources close to the situation said the majority of the team tested positive for the virus.
In addition, Loyola Athletics Director Steve Watson said the entire athletics department on “pause” at the moment but he was reluctant to go into detail about the COVID-19 situation for specific teams.
Watson didn’t give up-to-date numbers about the number of cases throughout the entire athletics department. He said there were 10 positive test results from student-athletes Aug. 1 to Nov. 12, but it’s unclear if that includes the current men’s basketball outbreak. Watson wouldn’t give an exact number of non-athletes in the athletics department who have tested positive over the course of the semester but said it’s just a “handful.”
“We’ve had a scattering of positives throughout the semester that escalated here over the course of the last few weeks,” Watson said.
Watson said the women’s basketball team is the only team still practicing. All non-basketball teams have been shut down for the rest of the semester.
Outside of men’s and women’s basketball, teams are not planning on resuming in-person athletic activities until after student-athletes and coaches return from winter break, according to Watson. He said the initial plan was to stop practices for non-basketball teams the week of Thanksgiving, but the decision to stop practicing a week early was done as a precaution against the virus.
The spread of COVID-19 is far from unique to Loyola and its athletics department. Positive cases in Chicago have continued to climb, resulting in Mayor Lori Lightfoot tightening restrictions.
Additionally, Loyola’s Wellness Center has seen a steady rise in positivity rates for tests it administers.
Student-athletes are primarily tested through the Wellness Center, with some tests being done through the Loyola Medical Center, according to Watson.
There were 17 additional positive tests performed at the Wellness Center from Nov. 12-16, according to Loyola’s coronavirus dashboard. Members from the athletics department are included in the dashboard statistics, but it’s unclear how many of the 17 positive cases were from Loyola Athletics compared to normal Loyola students and faculty.
As for how the cases spread to the athletics department, Watson said it’s impossible to definitively say. He referenced the department’s rules set in place since the summer to limit potential spread — which includes mandatory mask wearing, temperature checks when entering athletic buildings, a special QR code scanner for every room in athletic buildings for contact tracing and daily symptom checks.
Once a player tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate for 10 days. Anybody who comes into close contact with somebody who tested positive is required to quarantine for 14 days. Watson said both of these guidelines adhere to recommendations from the NCAA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, Watson didn’t mention any specific guidelines for athletes in their activities off-campus outside of advising them to “keep their circles small.”
Following a student-athlete’s recovery from COVID-19, Watson said the student-athlete won’t need to be tested again for 90 days in accordance with NCAA and CDC guidelines. Watson added he expects that period to increase to 150 days.
Despite the positive cases in Loyola Athletics throughout the fall semester, Watson said he doesn’t think there is anything he’d change in the way they operated.
“I think we’ve got good protocols in place, I think we’ve got good guidelines,” Watson said. “But now is a good time for us to take a step back, reevaluate, look at the things we’ve done as we prepare for next semester. … There’s nothing that jumps out at me that I think we would do differently.”