The Arizona Wildcats will pause their student-athlete re-entry plan due to the “increasing surge of positive COVID-19 cases in Pima County as well as the increased burden on the healthcare system,” the UA announced Monday.
The athletic department also announced that it has tested 83 student-athletes who have returned to campus for voluntary workouts and one tested positive for COVID-19.
The UA’s announcement comes the same day the state of Arizona announced a month-long shutdown of gyms, bars and movie theaters. The state reported a record 3,858 new cases on Sunday, raising the total to 73,908.
More than 7,000 of those cases hail from Pima County, but UA’s 1.2% positive rate is much lower than the 8.2% positive rate reported by the county.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have made this decision with campus and community partners to pause our re-entry process,” UA 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.”
“Our mission has always been, first and foremost, the safety of our student-athletes, staff and community,” added Dr. Stephen Paul of C.AT.S. Medical Services. “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.”
The UA has been returning its student-athletes in small waves, starting on June 15 with 20 football players, who all tested negative for coronavirus. 20 more players were supposed to join them on June 22 and 29 before the newcomers were set to arrive on July 6.
Soccer and volleyball players were scheduled to begin workouts on July 13 and 20. The college soccer season typically kicks off in mid-to-late August and football’s opener vs. Hawaii is Aug. 29, right around the time volleyball usually tips off its season, so this pause could put those start dates in jeopardy.
Governor Doug Ducey announced Monday that Arizona schools will not re-open until at least Aug. 17, about two weeks later than usual. Classes at the UA are scheduled to begin Aug. 24, but UA president Dr. Robert Robbins said last week that he would not re-open campus for the fall semester if he had to make that decision today.
“We cannot have a situation where we’re bringing students back to campus, asking our faculty and staff to come back to campus when we’re in truly an exponential growth of the number of cases here,” he said.