LINCOLN — Three weeks into voluntary workouts, it is unclear whether any Nebraska student-athletes who have returned to campus have tested positive for the coronavirus because unlike some athletic departments, NU is choosing not to say anything publicly about COVID-19 testing results.
NU officials say only that they are required to report any positive test to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, which says it can’t release any information about what the university has reported because of privacy requirements.
“It is up to the university to share whether they have an athlete test positive. We don’t provide this information about any business or organization,” said Diane Gonzolas, director of communications for the Lincoln Mayor’s Office. “If a business or organization wants to share information about their employees or athletes in this case, then we can confirm information that they share. This is how the Health Department handles all communicable diseases.”
At least 40 college athletic departments across the country have either reported or confirmed COVID-19 cases as athletes have returned to campuses for voluntary workouts this month. In bordering states, Kansas State has suspended voluntary workouts after 14 players and athletic department personnel tested positive for the virus. Iowa’s athletic department tallied 12 cases in less than a month. And on Thursday, Iowa State reported that four football players have tested positive in June.
Nebraska is not the only athletic department declining to release testing results. Almost half of the 66 FBS teams that responded to an Associated Press inquiry last week said they were still deciding if they would disclose positive tests. Half of those respondents — including Georgia and Ohio State — told the AP that they won’t be releasing any information, citing student-athlete privacy.
Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos confirmed three weeks ago that there had been one student-athlete who tested positive for coronavirus, but he said it had been “a while ago.”
Upon arrival this month, all athletes were tested and put under a minimum 48-hour quarantine. Moos has said Lincoln is the safest place for NU athletes to be this summer.
“We’re making sure not only the student-athletes are comfortable, but their parents are comfortable, that we’re following strict guidelines,” he said. “They’ll be in good care. Their sons and daughters will be in good hands.”
Nebraska has been testing athletes, though it is unclear how often, in coordination with the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Moos said Nebraska has shared its plan for student safety with the rest of the Big Ten, and it includes social distancing, workout groups of 10 or fewer, constant cleaning of weight equipment, and athletes wearing masks while picking up food at the training table.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with COVID-19 between the ages of 15 and 24 are significantly less likely to be hospitalized or die than those in older age groups. Data from the CDC between Feb. 1 and June 17 shows 125 deaths out of 10,968 coronavirus infections in that age group. In that same time period, 221 people in that age group died from pneumonia, and 50 from influenza.
Some outbreaks at athletic departments are more significant than others. Like Kansas State, both Boise State and Houston suspended voluntary workouts after multiple positive tests on campus. Clemson had 28 members of the athletic department test positive, mostly football players and staff. At defending champion LSU, 30 football players tested positive for COVID-19 or had contact with someone who had.
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