How and why Davidson saw Covid outbreaks on the sports team


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by Cameron Krakowiak ’24 (he / him), editor-in-chief

Photo of Anika Banerjee ’24, editor-in-chief

On January 26, Davidson College reported its highest number of positive COVID tests in a single day – 17 ⁠ – matching last semester’s cumulative total peak. Several teams represented these positive cases, although other teams quarantined the athletes according to CDC guidelines. Seven female basketball players had to be quarantined for two weeks after a University of Dayton athlete tested positive after their Jan. 14 game.

Students expressed concern that a sporting event could be a vector for the rapid spread of COVID-19 on campus. The student government association responded to these concerns in its latest campus-wide email: “We understand the concerns about varsity athletics and we are having conversations. […] to address some of the concerns. In the meantime, please understand that athletes who train or practice sometimes do not wear masks. If they don’t, their coaches and coaches make sure they’re following NCAA safety rules.

Davidson sporting director Chris Clunie ’06 defined the three levels of sport contact and their risk levels in The Davidsonian. “There are high-risk contact sports, intermediate-risk contact sports, and low-risk contact sports. Swimming, golf, tennis is low risk, low contact, so you have kind of a middle man and it’s lacrosse and your soccer and baseball like a little bit higher risk, but still middle man. And then you got a higher risk like the fight […] Soccer […] and basketball and for different reasons.

Clunie added that he tries to create protocols and guidelines that minimize risk as much as possible. He added that the sports department is trying to go beyond some of the NCAA guidelines. Volleyball, normally a high-risk sport, is now played with masks and has been reclassified as intermediate risk.

Clunie said that at every opportunity, Davidson’s sports teams will wear masks, adding: “Our football team trains with masks, I mean, even though they’re technically allowed by the guidelines of the rules not to be. […] I don’t think people realize that all of their helmets have masks. “

According to the team, Davidson’s student-athletes can spend 20 to 30 hours per week training and training together in “functional training groups” and “pods,” Clunie described. This way, if there is a positive case or if someone is contacted, the number of contacts will be limited. Because student-athletes spend so much time together, one positive case can spread the virus to more than one.

An anonymous student-athlete explained, “Because we’re on teams, if one person does something, or gets contact traced or contracts COVID, it takes a ton more people. If you take a look at non-athletes in social circles, it could eliminate two, three, four people. When you’re in a team, it takes tons. I think the number of people who find themselves in this situation and who have COVID or whose contacts are sought is not representative of their actions. “

Women’s basketball goalie Rosie Deegan ’23 spent two weeks in quarantine with the women’s basketball team and explained her situation.

“Lots of children [in quarantine] haven’t done anything wrong and are caught up in contact tracing. This is a bit like what happened with us. We were playing by the rules, ”she said. “It’s really easy to contact him and find him on all the teams, so it’s really frustrating. I just got out of my room. Because I’m with a volleyball roommate. Nothing is more frustrating than not doing something specifically wrong and getting caught. “

She added: “There is a stigma around athletes. I will continue by saying that there are people who have done wrong, but it is not the whole cohort of athletes. ”

Senior goalie for the women’s basketball team, Katie Turner ’21, gave poignant advice to the quarantined student-athletes.

“I’m sure a lot of people who are currently in quarantine feel this way. […] truly cherish every opportunity you have to play […] because it hit me in quarantine that if it happens later mine and our season is over and my career is over. This advice I’m giving is actually something the women’s basketball team has been talking about. So, treat it like it’s your last game or your last season.

Indeed, varsity athletics as a whole has been torn on the axis between providing competitive opportunities and reducing security risks throughout the global pandemic.

According to Clunie, “the hope is, yes” that teams that have had positive cases can still complete their seasons⁠ – but there is a caveat. “This is our hope. This is what we aspire to, but being realistic and knowing that the virus is going to have an impact as we said around interruptions, disruptions and cancellations. “

Clunie said he was “not allowed to share” the number of positive athlete cases on campus.

“Yes, I know how many cases we have, I know how many cases are athletes, I know how many quarantined people are general students who are being interviewed, which is defined, but we just aren’t able to share quarantine. ”

This question still remains unanswered, leaving a lack of transparency for students wondering what else the college might be withholding from the virus. With these questions left unanswered, the college could potentially thwart students’ beliefs that it is safe to stay on campus for the remainder of this semester.

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