As the summer rolled on, and even as the college football season started, there were so many unknowns about COVID and how it would spread and it’s impact that no one was really sure what college football would look like for a long time.
Ross Dellenger wrote an interesting article published yesterday for SI that focuses on the battle over contract tracing in college football and all the unique moving pieces that go into it. Coaches voice their frustrations about players who have had to quarantine because of contact tracing and close contacts to a positive case and how that is being handled differently from school to school.
The piece also calls into question the current protocol to of having to quarantine for 14 days due to “close contact.” The figures coming in from college football programs are showing that those having to quarantine because of “close contact” are rarely testing positive. One Group of Five coach shared that of the 40 kids they have had in that situation over the last several months, none have gone on to test positive, and another team doctor put their number forced to quarantine and then later test positive at less than 10%.
What I found most interesting in the entire piece though, is this sentence: “Medical experts in the college sports world say they have no evidence of on-field transmission of the virus.”
On-field transmission was one of the biggest concerns among decision makers in college football heading into the season. To combat some of those concerns, the SEC outfitted players in a tracking device underneath the shoulder pads that measures proximity to other players during the course of a game.
The data gathered from those tracking devices is fascinating. Through three games, this important conclusion was made from the available data:
“Few players from opposing teams spend enough time close enough to one another over the course of a game to be considered high-risk contacts (six feet for 15 minutes).”
The only position groups to log more than 15 minutes “of close contact” was a center and nose guard. For those two positions, the highest recorded contact was 18 minutes in a game.
Florida announced yesterday a handful of positive cases that have shut down the program, so Dellenger notes that Texas A&M (who played the Gators last week) examined their tracking data and found that the longest time two players were in “close contact” as defined by the CDC was SIX minutes.
Meanwhile, in states like Michigan, some teams are being required to quarantine everyone that played a single snap in a game against a player who later tested positive. For instance, a game takes place on a Friday night, and a player on Team A tests positive on Saturday after not feeling well. All players on Team B that played even a single snap against Team A have to quarantine.
As more data comes in, it seems more and more likely that there will be adjustments in areas like the required quarantine time, and how sports handle competing against an individual who tests positive after a contest, as we all learn and adjust to life with COVID until a vaccine is readily available.