University of Michigan student-athletes protest two-week pause due to COVID-19 variant

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Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press
·3 min read
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A group of Michigan athletes is speaking out against the athletic department's two-week shutdown of all athletic activities.

In a statement tweeted by Myles Amine, a sixth-year senior on the wrestling team, a "coalition of student-athletes" wants the two-week pause to be overturned in order for competition to resume.

"We are asking the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider the blanket shutdown implemented on January 24th, and allow all the student-athletes that are healthy to return to all athletic-related activities," the statement read.

An online petition was also created by Christian Hubaker, a member of the men's track and field team.

This past weekend, the athletic department announced that it would pause all athletic activities for two weeks, beginning Jan. 24, due to confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant. The shutdown was recommended by the MDHHS.

Sources previously told the Free Press the outbreak traced back to one female student-athlete. The woman traveled Jan. 3 from the U.K. to the U.S., according to a spokeswoman from the Washtenaw County Health Department, and promptly infected at least seven additional people within the athletics community.

Michigan's athletic department said on Friday that 22 student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19 between Jan. 16-22.

On Monday afternoon, Michigan Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun told reporters that there are currently 13 cases of the new COVID variant in Washtenaw County.

The new variant is considered highly contagious and more transmittable than the original strain.

The shutdown, which affects in-season sports including men's and women's basketball, hockey and wrestling, among others, began Jan. 24.

"The student-athletes at the University of Michigan recognize the severity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and have done everything in our control to prevent the spread of this virus to the best of our ability," the statement said. "Recently, 5 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 strain have been found in the athletic department, which has triggered a shutdown of all athletic-related activity and the closure of all athletic facilities by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Washtenaw County Health Department.

"While we, the student-athletes at the University of Michigan, understand the severity of this virus and take it very seriously, we believe that this mandate from the MDHHS is unnecessary and should not only be reconsidered, but overturned."

At the crux of the group's argument is the fact that several teams, including the basketball and hockey teams, have had no positive tests.

"Based on the department’s testing policies, placing healthy students in quarantine is unnecessary and excessive," the statement continued. "Placing the entirety of student-athletes in a mandated quarantine, instead of working it on a team by team basis, is unfair to the athletes who have followed all protocols necessary to compete and have had no contact with the confirmed cases. These student-athletes have gone above and beyond in order to earn the right to have a season in the midst of a pandemic.

"We believe it is simply illogical to mandate a quarantine for the student-athletes given that at this point there are no extra recommended mitigation strategies outside of what athletes have already been compliance with (masking, social distancing, inner bubbles, etc.). The student-athletes at the University of Michigan stand united in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping every member of our community safe."

A researcher at Aalborg University screens and analyzes positive Danish COVID-19 tests for the new virus variant, in Aalborg, Denmark, Friday,  Jan. 15, 2021. Cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been detected across many other European countries, leading to curfews in France and extended school closures in Germany.
A researcher at Aalborg University screens and analyzes positive Danish COVID-19 tests for the new virus variant, in Aalborg, Denmark, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been detected across many other European countries, leading to curfews in France and extended school closures in Germany.

Contact Orion Sang at osang@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: U-M athletes protest two-week shutdown due to COVID-19 variant