Arizona halts plan to bring athletes back to campus amid massive spike in COVID-19 cases

Due to a massive spike in positive COVID-19 cases in the state, the University of Arizona has stopped allowing athletes to return to campus.

The university had started allowing athletes to return for voluntary workouts on June 15 in small groups. The athletic department said on Monday afternoon that just one of the 83 athletes who had returned tested positive. But with the virus surging in the state, the plan to continue onboarding athletes to campus in Tucson has paused.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have made this decision with campus and community partners to pause our re-entry process,” athletic director Dave Heeke said in a statement. “The health, safety and wellbeing of all members of our community is our number one priority. We will continue to work in conjunction with campus partners and our local government agencies to support and evaluate a safe and healthy return to campus.”

There were more than 2.6 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Monday night, according to The New York Times, and more than 126,000 deaths attributed to it.

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Arizona has more than 74,600 confirmed cases, has seen a massive spike in recent days. The state set a new daily record on Sunday with more than 3,800 cases alone. Pima County, where the university is located, had more than 7,500 confirmed cases as of Monday night — up from just more than 2,400 at the beginning of the month. Gov. Doug Ducey ordered bars, gyms and theaters in the state to close Monday while also restricting large gatherings.

Arizona has its first football game scheduled in Week 0 on Aug. 29, where it’ll take on Hawaii, and was hoping to begin formal team workouts on July 6. Teams starting on Week 1 were told that they can start workouts a week later on July 13.

The university did not provide a timeline on when it will start allowing athletes to return to campus again.

“Our mission has always been, first and foremost, the safety of our student-athletes, staff and community,” team physician Dr. Stephen Paul said in a statement. “Health and safety continue to be the guiding force in our re-entry process. We will continue to monitor the status and impact of COVID-19 in our community and our ongoing and safe training of student-athletes already on campus. Arizona Athletics will assess when to resume its re-entry process in collaboration with the guidelines and protocols of the University of Arizona, Pac-12 Conference, NCAA, and state and local government agencies.”

Arizona has seen a massive spike in coronavirus cases in recent days, and set a new single day record on Sunday.
Arizona has seen a massive spike in coronavirus cases in recent days, and set a new single day record on Sunday. (Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

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