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Barry Alvarez: Wisconsin football up to 22 active COVID-19 cases
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Barry Alvarez: Wisconsin football up to 22 active COVID-19 cases

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The COVID-19 outbreak that has shut down the University of Wisconsin football program continues to expand.

UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said on ESPN’s “College GameDay” Saturday morning that the program now has 22 active cases.

“I just got a report this morning. Today we are at 10 staff, 12 players, a total of 22. So we’re still having additions in our cases and that’s something that we’ve got to get our arms around and control it,” Alvarez said in an interview.

UW head coach Paul Chryst is among the 22 active cases, the program announced. Sources tell the State Journal that offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and quarterbacks Graham Mertz and Chase Wolf have also tested positive. Per a UW news release sent midday Saturday, the Badgers have had two staff members and five student-athletes submit positive PCR tests since Thursday. One case that was considered active Thursday — a positive test that was submitted Oct. 21 — is no longer considered active. 

The Badgers, who canceled their game against Nebraska this weekend due to their COVID-19 situation, have had 22 new positive cases in the past week.

Alvarez also said the program will decide early next week whether they can play against Purdue, whom they’re slated to host at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 7.

“We’ll take a look at where we are, where our positive testing is, and make a decision on Tuesday,” Alvarez said.

UW said it will provide testing updates on Tuesday as well. 

Illinois — who the No. 9 Badgers beat 45-7 in their season-opening win — announced Saturday morning that two players had tested positive, quarterback Brandon Peters and tight end Griffin Moore. "Several other" players won't play Saturday against Purdue after contact tracing designated them as being at risk of infection. 

The Badgers announced a seven-day pause of team activities on Wednesday as they tried to stop the spread of the virus. Hotel rooms were provided to separate players who live together so each player could have his own living space, and the team’s facility was shut down for workouts. Players are to only come to the facility for daily COVID-19 testing, to pick up food, or to receive sports medicine treatment.

UW said on Thursday that the earliest it could conduct in-person activities or practice would be Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Coaches who test positive for COVID-19 must abide by local health regulations before they can be cleared to return to in-person team activities. After consulting with Public Health Madison and Dane County, Chryst received a letter from University Health Services saying he can return to work at the earliest on Thursday, Nov. 5, if he continues to be asymptomatic. 

Players who test positive are out of game action for 21 days starting from their initial positive test. The three-week absence was designed to allow for 10 days of no activity and isolation, a battery of cardiac screening to be conducted after 14 days, followed by a seven-day window for a player to get reconditioned physically.

The time the Big Ten calls for players to be out of game action is the longest of any Power Five conference. It also exceeds CDC recommendations. Dr. Jim Borchers, the head team physician of Ohio State football who was co-chair of the Big Ten’s return to competition medical subcommittee, said when the conference brought football back this year that the protocol was made out of an abundance of caution.

The cardiac screening players must undergo is designed to find symptoms of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can be life-threatening. Myocarditis concerns were reportedly a factor in the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the football season.

However, the conference’s 21-day layoff rule has been called into question this week.

A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found little evidence of myocarditis in COVID-positive college athletes who had mild or no symptoms. The report didn’t recommend cardiac testing to the level the Big Ten is conducting.

ESPN’s Rece Davis asked Alvarez about the report and if the Big Ten would consider changing the 21-day protocol.

“I think several athletic directors have looked at that number and thought it was a little high, but none of us are doctors, that’s not our decision to make. That’s for our medical professionals to make,” Alvarez said.

“I’m sure we’ll take a look at it. I saw the report also and I’m sure we’ll take a look at it, but it’s still going to be a medical decision.”


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