Like we need air to breathe, we all need college football back. Once it’s back, we need it to stay back.
Fortunately, the coronavirus outbreak occurred at such a time where football teams were afforded time — time to wait, and time to learn. In reading studies of outbreaks from across the globe, these five points have emerged as common lesson points to avoid repeating others’ mistakes:
1. The way in which people breathe — especially when they’re working out — is extremely important.
2. Take advantage of space and open air whenever possible.
3. People working in close quarters for extended periods of time should be avoided at all costs.
4. Indoor team meetings should be avoided whenever possible, especially meetings where players raise their voices.
5. Buffet-style team meals should be avoided whenever possible.
To see how outbreaks elsewhere can become teaching points for college football programs — broken down by different touch points of the typical college football week — continue reading below.
The weight room
We’ve written previously on how a South Korean study showed how two separate fitnesses classes conduct in the same space resulted in wildly different results. A yoga class resulted in zero coronavirus spread, while a Latin dancing class did, leading researchers to conclude, “The moist, warm atmosphere in a sports facility coupled with turbulent air flow generated by intense physical exercise can cause more dense transmission of isolated droplets.”
In short, the way, direction, and environment in which people breathe can largely be a determinative factor in whether or not an infected person spreads the virus to others.
Perhaps no data point shared in this article is more illustrative in just how easily and quickly one infection can multiply into dozens than this Japanese exercise at a buffet.
NHK conducted an experiment to see how germs spread at a cruise buffet.
They applied fluorescent paint to the hands of 1 person and then had a group of 10 people dine.
In 30 min the paint had transferred to every individual and was on the faces of 3.
— Spoon & Tamago (@Johnny_suputama) May 8, 2020
Every coach and administrator watching that video should immediately cut in their mind’s eye to weekday meals at their dining hall, or pre-game meals in a hotel banquet room.
Self-serve meals are preferable for feeding large groups for obvious reasons, and yet the Food and Drug Administration recommended retailers should “discontinue operations such as salad bars, self-service buffets or beverage service stations that require customers to use common utensils or dispensers.”
In fact, the buffet chain Souplantation permanently closed all 97 locations in response to FDA guidelines.
“It became clear that our service model would not be allowed soon, if ever,” the CEO of Souplantation’s parent company, John Haywood, told CNN.
An asymptomatic woman inadvertently infected 24 others when she took a 100-minute bus trip in China in January. The scattershot distribution of infected cases led researchers to believe the way the air conditioner re-circulated air through the bus played a large factor in deciding who became infected and who did not.
Again, fresh air is your friend here, whenever possible.
You can’t crack a window on a plane, obviously, but there is good news here. Data says planes are generally safe environments.
That’s not to say you can’t get infected on an airplane — of course you can — but that, according to Harvard assistant professor of exposure assessment science Joseph Allen, you aren’t more likely to catch an infection on a plane than anywhere else.
“The ventilation system requirements for airplanes meet the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use with covid-19 patients in airborne infection isolation rooms,” he wrote in the Washington Post.
Like busses and gyms, outbreaks in offices have been traced back, largely, to how infected air is circulated into healthy lungs.
South Korea’s version of the CDC traced a March outbreak back to an office/residential building. After 1,145 tests of workers and residents alike, they found 97 infections; 94 worked on the same floor, and 89 worked on the same side of the floor as Patient Zero.
Touching the same elevator button and using the same restroom as an infected person won’t necessarily put you at high risk of catching an infection, but breathing the same air for an extended period of time almost certainly will.
Whenever possible, reducing the amount of shared offices among coaches will reduce the opportunity the virus has to spread.
Large meeting places
It’s a story you may have already heard about. A March choir practice in Washington State led to 53 infections among the 61 singers, including two deaths. Sadly, that is not the only case. An Amsterdam choir practice resulted in 102 infections out of 130 singers, and a choir event in Berlin resulted in 50 infections.
Obviously, the lesson we should all know by this point in the article is that large groups of people gathered in a tight space, for an extended period of time, all forcefully pushing air out of their lungs is the perfect stew the COVID-19 needs to spread. That has obvious implications for fans, but teams themselves don’t commonly get together and sing. But they do get together and shout a whole lot.
SCHOLARSHIP ALERT 🚨 Always fight for your dreams, until they come true. These huskies fought for their scholarships and are ready for the next round 2.
.#TheHardWay #collegefootball #thursdaymotivation #scolorship #tbt #thankfulthursdays #collegegameday pic.twitter.com/Qv9GuLmleX
— NIU Football (@NIU_Football) August 22, 2019
.@AliiNiumatalolo YOU’RE ON SCHOLARSHIP!
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) August 16, 2019
— Eliah Drinkwitz (@CoachDrinkwitz) August 6, 2019
Again, moving meetings outdoors and using that outdoor space to keep players socially distant will help keep the virus at bay.
Of course, all of this only touches on what happens when players are in the direct care of their programs — we haven’t touched typical college life touchstones like dorms, bars and house parties.
Programs can only do so much, but implementing the best practices outlined above will help ensure players remain safe and the season is played as scheduled.