CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa began its reopening process for student-athletes Monday, allowing upperclassman football players to return to campus for voluntary workouts.
Those players who arrived at the UNI-Dome on Monday were met with social distancing standards, supplies of personal protective equipment, their locker room being off limits, as well as physicals and mandated testing for COVID-19.
UNI athletics director David Harris and football coach Mark Farley met the media via Zoom Monday and Harris mentioned in his opening remarks how dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has become the most fluid situation he’s ever dealt with in his career.
“The things that we’re putting into place now are things that could very easily change, and most likely will change at some point as we get different guidance from the CDC and other experts,” Harris said. “You have to be in a position to start somewhere with what it is that you’re doing, but you also have to be smart enough to know that we have to be flexible as more information is available.”
As Iowa and Iowa State have welcomed coaches, staff and student-athletes back to their respective campuses recently both athletics departments have uncovered positive COVID-19 tests. Harris said UNI is prepared and protocols are in place if a positive test is detected with bringing its student-athletes back.
He also acknowledged there’s no solidified number of infections that would constitute it being deemed an “outbreak” and/or shut down offseason workouts.
“As student-athletes are looking to enter the building each day they’ll go through a COVID screening and have a temperature check,” Harris said. “Ultimately the doctors have given us different information about what might warrant (outbreak) consideration. So, we don’t have a definitive number that we’re going to work with. Ultimately we’re going to rely on the doctor’s advice.”
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Farley admitted he’s excited for his players to be back and eager to get things looking more like normal around campus, but also made a point to mention “smart work” needs to go hand-in-hand with “hard work” given the circumstances of the pandemic.
Asked about additional mitigation strategies the team is taking, or has considered, Farley pointed out how having multiple players of the same position in a dorm, apartment or house could prove to be a crippling scenario on the football field if one became infected.
“How do you set your locker room up? How do you set your roommates up?” Farley said. “Always a great example is the quarterback (position). In the middle of the season, if you lose one quarterback and you have to quarantine the other three, you could lose your whole quarterback position due to the virus. All those thoughts and conversations are out there. Then, what’s the most realistic logistical thing you can do?”
UNI opens its season Sept. 5 at Iowa.
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