by Cameron Krakowiak ‘24 (he/him), Staff Writer
On January 26th, Davidson College reported its highest number of positive COVID tests in a single day — 17 — matching last semester’s peak cumulative total. Multiple teams accounted for these positive cases, although other teams quarantined athletes in compliance with CDC guidelines. Seven Women’s Basketball players had to quarantine for two weeks after a University of Dayton athlete tested positive after their game on January 14th.
Students have expressed worries that an athletic event could be a vector for COVID-19’s rapid spread across campus. The Student Government Association addressed these concerns in their latest campus-wide email: “We understand the concerns over college athletics, and we are having conversations […] to address some of the concerns. In the meantime, please understand that athletes who are training or practicing sometimes don’t wear masks. If they don’t, their coaches and trainers are making sure they follow NCAA safety rules.”
Davidson’s Athletic Director Chris Clunie ‘06 laid out the three tiers of sports contact and their risk levels by The Davidsonian. “There are high-risk contact sports, intermediate-risk contact sports, and there are low-risk contact sports. Swimming, golf, tennis, are low risk, low contact, then you have kind of intermediate and that’s lacrosse and your soccers and baseball like a little bit more elevated risk, but still intermediate. And then you have higher risk like wrestling […] football […] and basketball and for different reasons.”
Clunie added that he was trying to create protocols and guidelines that minimize risk as much risk as possible. He added that the athletic department tries to go beyond some of the NCAA’s guidelines. Volleyball, normally a high risk sport, is now being played with masks and has been relabeled as an intermediate risk.
Clunie said that at every chance, the Davidson athletic teams are going to be wearing masks, adding, “our football team is practicing with masks I mean, even though they are technically allowed per the rules guidelines not to […] I don’t think people realize all their helmets have masks.”
Depending on the team, Davidson’s student-athletes can spend 20 to 30 hours per week working out and practicing together in “functional training groups” and “pods,” Clunie described. This way, if there is a positive case or someone is contact traced, the amount of contacts will be limited. Because student-athletes spend so much time together, one positive case can spread the virus to many.
An anonymous student-athlete explained, “Because we are part of teams, if one person does something, or gets contact traced or gets COVID, it takes a ton more people down. If you take a look at non-athletes in social circles, it might take out two, three, four people. When you’re on a team it takes out tons. I think the numbers of people that are in this situation that have COVID or that are contact traced is not representative of their actions.”
Women’s Basketball guard Rosie Deegan ‘23 spent two weeks in quarantine with the Women’s Basketball team and explained her situation.
“A lot of the kids [in quarantine] didn’t do anything wrong and are caught up in contact tracing. That is kind of what happened with us. We were following the rules,” she said. “It’s really easy to contact and trace it throughout the teams, so it’s really frustrating. I just moved out of my room. Because I’m with a volleyball roommate. Nothing is more frustrating than you not doing something specifically wrong and getting caught up.”
She added, “There is a stigma going around about the athletes. I’ll go on to say there are people who have done wrong, but that is not the whole athlete cohort.”
Senior guard for the Women’s Basketball team Katie Turner ‘21 provided poignant advice to student athletes in quarantine.
“I’m sure a lot of people that are currently in quarantine are feeling this way […] really cherish every opportunity you have to play […] because it hit me in quarantine that if this happens down the road, mine and our season is over and my career is over. This advice I am giving is actually something that the girls basketball team has talked about. So, treat it like it’s your last game or season.”
Indeed, college athletics as a whole has been torn on the axis between providing competitive opportunities and reducing safety risks throughout the global pandemic.
According to Clunie, “the hope is, yes,” that teams that have had positive cases can still finish their seasons — but, there is a caveat. “That is our hope. That is what we aspire to, but being realistic and knowing that the virus is going to have an impact like we said around interruptions and disruptions and cancellations.”
Clunie stated he is “not allowed to share” the number of positive athlete cases on campus.
“Yeah I know how many cases we have, I know how many cases are athletes, I know how many people in quarantine are general students that are asked, which is set, but we’re just not able to share the quarantine.”
This question still remains unanswered, leaving a lack of transparency for students wondering what else the college may be withholding in regards to the virus. With these questions left unanswered, the college could potentially thwart students’ belief that it is safe to remain on campus for the rest of this semester.