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Six Coast Guard Academy football players test positive for COVID-19

By GAVIN KEEFE | The Day, New London, Conn. | Published: October 22, 2020

NEW LONDON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — Six U.S. Coast Guard Academy football players are in isolation on campus after testing positive for COVID-19.

Athletic director Dan Rose said Coast Guard officials and medical staff followed protocol, took immediate action, and for now have prevented any further spread within the football program or in the student population.

Rose also said the rest of the team and staff were tested on Monday and all received negative results on Wednesday.

Practice is scheduled to resume on Thursday.

Last Thursday, two football players went to the campus clinic after experiencing symptoms. They were immediately tested — ultimately turning up positive results — at which point the academy immediately began contact tracing and pinpointed four players who could have been infected.

The academy's senior leadership team recommended that practices for all the athletic programs be canceled on Monday and Tuesday.

The six football players were removed from the student population and moved to a campus building set aside for positive cases and potential cases. They will remain in quarantine until they become asymptomatic and each has two negative test results.

Rose said Wednesday it took courage for the two players with symptoms to come forward knowing they would have to quarantine.

"This reaffirms your faith in the system," he said. "We had two initial tests of football players. They started asking the questions, 'Who have you been in contact with and in close proximity?' The additional cases, when it finally went up to six, were people that already were in quarantine from contact tracing. They were already separated from the corps of cadets.

"... Because our clinic did such a good job, the additional cases already were separated from the corps of cadets and already in a quarantine wing, so there was no further spread. But we still are testing."

The Coast Guard Academy has a surveillance testing system in place where it randomly tests 22 percent of its population each week.

"All week, all those tests have been negative as well," Rose said.

There's an additional testing protocol for the athletic programs. The NCAA recommends that student-athletes be tested 72 hours before any competition.

While the majority of the fall competitive schedule has been canceled, each Coast Guard team is playing a one-game season, facing either Merchant Marine Academy or Army. The women's soccer team hosts Army Friday night while volleyball, women's crew and sailing host Merchant Marine on Saturday.

The football team will play its only game on Saturday, Nov. 14 at Merchant Marine.

"If we get a positive test in a certain sport, we won't compete," Rose said. "So far, they've been negative. So we will look to compete as long as that trend stays consistent.

"... You couldn't go through our four years, or even one year, without having some physical outlet. So when our population is healthy and testing negative, we're going to have our athletic programs and our other activities and clubs get together because it's an important thing and an important part of our development."

Rose says the academy has to be ready to hit the pause button again. He thinks it will happen again in the future.

"That is the new normal," Rose said. "Remember that game, Red Light, Green Light, when you were a kid? That's what it is. If the testing trend is negative, then we have a green light. If the testing trend is positive in any way, shape or form, we stop and examine what we've got. If we need to take a step backwards, we do.

"But, so far, the results are reaffirming that we are heading in the right direction."

g.keefe@theday.com

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