Nine cases of COVID-19 have emerged among 125 University of Idaho student-athletes tested during the past month, the school confirmed Monday.
The majority of reported positive cases are among football players, and two Vandal staffers have contracted the virus, according to multiple sources close to the program who spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
Idaho spokeswoman Jodi Walker said that since early July, 15 student-athletes have quarantined without symptoms, while another nine had symptoms and self-isolated. The total number of active cases currently is uncertain, according to UI.
Walker said UI is doing its due diligence to combat the virus, and following internal protocols, which she noted are planned to become more finalized for athletics later this week.
Athletes isolate upon returning to campus, then get tested, then isolate again while awaiting results.
Sources, some of them UI athletes, said those who contract the virus are asked to recollect anyone they’d been around. Regardless of their coronavirus test results, players must quarantine for two weeks if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive.
Two sources estimated the number of football players to be quarantined in total was 10-15 people higher as of last week, while others said the situation is too fluid to place a number right now. Sources say infected members of the team seem to be recovering well, but many have voiced concerns about the school steaming ahead with its plans for the season.
For instance, a roommate of a positive-testing player might unknowingly pick up the virus at home, then compete at an ensuing practice. Sources expressed uncertainty regarding the upcoming football season, worrying about the safety of players and personnel. They observed that the situation already has become concerning, and presumably will worsen once full-fledged team practices begin, and when thousands of other Idaho students arrive on campus later this month to begin the academic semester.
Per sources, student-athlete testing has been been limited, and not every player thought to have been in contact with a positive teammate receives a test, instead being directed by UI's staff to quarantine in the campus “bubble” for 14 days.
The university announced last week it plans to test every student using an in-house system before the semester’s Aug. 24 start, and for those results to be made available in 24 hours.
The Big Sky Conference announced Thursday it will await today’s NCAA Board of Governors meeting, then reconvene to “review options regarding competition this fall for (the conference’s) member institutions’ intercollegiate athletic teams,” according to a news release. Other Big Sky schools — including Montana State, Idaho State, Weber State and Northern Arizona — have reported cases of COVID-19 among student-athletes during this summer.
As of now, the Idaho football team is scheduled to open fall camp Friday. UI players returned to campus for noncontact workouts in late June, and those exercises have continued.
The football team determines which players are tested by conducting temperature checks and posing health-related questions before each training session, according to the athletic department.
The Vandals already have lost two of their nonconference games because of coronavirus-related cancellations. Idaho’s home opener, scheduled for Sept. 5 at the Kibbie Dome against Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe Western Oregon, was scrapped when the GNAC canceled its fall sports seasons. The Battle of the Palouse against Washington State, set for Sept. 19 at Pullman, was dropped when the Pac-12 announced in July its members would play conference-only schedules.
Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.