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Contact tracing disruptive for Bendu Yeaney, Arizona women’s basketball—but help is on the way

Bendu Yeaney
Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics

Being a close contact to someone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus can be more disruptive then actually testing positive. Just ask Arizona Wildcats guard Bendu Yeaney.

Yeaney has been sent into quarantine several times this offseason due to contact tracing. It’s definitely not the way the Indiana transfer hoped to spend her first year at Arizona.

“We started practices, and I was there for a week,” said Yeaney, who played 20 minutes off the bench in her debut vs. NAU. “And then I was gone for a week, and I was there for a week. Then I was gone, and I was there, and I was gone. It was hectic, really. I had to just be flexible because I know our doctors and trainers are trying to make sure everybody’s healthy and things like that. So I’ll just try and stay patient. I want to practice with my team, but I’d rather have us all be safe than sorry.”

Arizona had eight players in quarantine for several days last week due to a false positive on the team, something that head coach Adia Barnes blamed partially on players going out to eat together rather than taking food home. For Yeaney, it has sometimes been a matter of trying to be a good Samaritan that’s gotten her into trouble.

“Poor Bendu,” Barnes said. “She’s been contact traced and held out probably four times. And it’s never been her fault. It’s like she gave someone a ride home and they got caught, there was a false (positive). We’ve had a lot of false positives.”

Barnes hopes some of the issues related to contact tracing will be addressed by the new technology the Pac-12 has adopted for that purpose. On Nov. 30, the conference announced that the league would be introducing KINEXON SafeZone technology to aid in contact tracing within all football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball programs.

According to the Pac-12 press release, the technology “uses small lightweight wearables called ‘SafeTags’ to accurately measure the distance and duration between users. The SafeTags will be worn by student-athletes, coaches and staff during all team activities, including games.”

If an infection is discovered, contacts can be quickly determined by each school’s designated medical officials. That allows them to quarantine contacts in real time, according to the conference.

Barnes said that they are finding that most of the risks aren’t associated with the players being on the court together, but with “teaching time” on the sidelines. That’s something they are trying to address by reminding players to spread out on the sideline instead of lining up close together. The wearable devices may help with that effort.

“If it helps, it’ll be good,” Barnes said. “I hope it’s something where it’s gonna eliminate some of the contact tracing.”

A bit of pointed advice might help, too.

“With me in particular, she was like, ‘Stay home,’ basically,” Yeaney said.