Stayin Sharp with Evan Sharpley. Football practice on pause as ND resets following COVID positives

Football practice on pause as Notre Dame campus tries to reset following spike in COVID-19 positives

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced that in-person classes for the University’s undergraduate students are suspended until Sept. 2 and for graduate and professional students until Aug. 24, replaced by remote instruction only because positive rates for the coronavirus continue to climb.

“With the advice and encouragement of Dr. Mark Fox of the St. Joseph County Health Department, we believe we can take steps short of sending students home for remote instruction, at least for the time being, while still protecting the health and safety of the campus community,” Father Jenkins told students in a virtual meeting this afternoon.

“The virus is a formidable foe,” Father Jenkins said in announcing enhanced testing for students experiencing symptoms and surveillance testing for those without symptoms. “For the past week, it has been winning. Let us as the Fighting Irish join together to contain it.”

Here is the university dashboard that displays current cases and number of tests. Since August 3rd, there have been 222 confirmed cases.

In the wake of the move to virtual classes, the Irish football team paused practices.

“Our contact-tracing analysis indicates that most infections are coming from off-campus gatherings,” Father Jenkins said. “Students infected at those gathering passed it on to others, who in turn have passed the virus on to others, resulting in the positive cases we have seen.”

So, my question? What does moving classes to virtual do to limit what students are doing off-campus? A collegiate campus and the surrounding social circles are not a “bubble,” rather a petri dish. As we are seeing, a couple off-campus parties and the numbers of COVID-19 positives have spiked.

Tom Noie from the South Bend Tribune noted here that Notre Dame considered sending students home, but will hold off for two weeks as they monitor cases.

Notre Dame is not yet sending students home, and instead advised students to stay on campus except under emergency circumstances. It also restricted all student gatherings to 10 people or fewer.

However, the university's president, Reverend John Jenkins, warned that students would be sent home if the situation does not improve. "If these steps are not successful, we will have to send students home as we did last spring," Jenkins said in a conference call.

The university said it is arranging on-campus housing for students who test positive at "quarantine of isolation facilities." If a student is placed in one, they will have meals, toiletries and other necessities delivered to them by the school's contact tracing team.

Final Thoughts

Why weren’t these protocols previously in place to limit contact? This conversation is a bit tricky, and I believe is fueled by money. Had Notre Dame decided to move all classes to virtual and advise students to stay at home, they likely would have lost huge amounts of money on tuition with families/students opting out for the school year. The Notre Dame powers had to at least “try” to bring the students back, but they are finding out it’s much harder to limit the spread when it isn’t a controlled environment.

While money may have been lost in tuition, the University now runs the risk of embarrassingly sending students home and possibly shutting down the football season. Had the students done virtual only to begin with, varsity sports likely could have set up a “bubble” on campus with each sport having their own dorm which would have increased the likelihood of return to play. It’s not fair to point fingers, given a pandemic, and I certainly do not envy the decision makers, so I won’t point, BUT if things don’t get better it’ll be a black eye on the university and it’s student body.

Until next time... stay safe and STAY SHARP!

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