On Monday, Notre Dame reported 18 new cases of coronavirus on its football team, resulting in 25 players in isolation and another 14 in quarantine. According to head coach Brian Kelly, the outbreak has been traced to a team dinner just before the game vs. South Florida on Sept. 19, which is prompting the Irish to change up their practices.
“Throughout our entire time together, we had not had one meal where we sat down together,” Kelly told ESPN. “Everything was grab and go. We get into our game situation where we have pregame meal together, and that cost us. Big. We had somebody who was asymptomatic, and it spread like wildfire throughout our meeting area where we were eating and then it got guys in contact tracing.”
From now on, the Irish will eat their pregame meals in a ballroom in a convention center to maintain six feet of distance between seats. Additionally, they will begin using rapid antigen tests on the sidelines to determine if players who become ill during a game are suffering from dehydration or COVID. During the South Florida game, a Notre Dame player threw up on the sideline but didn’t have a concussion or other injuries, so the medical staff treated him for dehydration. Two days later, he tested positive for COVID.
“In trying to discern the difference between somebody who may be dehydrated in a game and having the effects of COVID on the sideline, [it] becomes very tricky,” Kelly said. “Just being vigilant and understanding that this thing can hide in so many different areas make it a tricky proposition, even if you’re doing all of the right things.
“We have to think about giving antigen tests on the sidelines for stuff that we never thought of,” Kelly said. “That’s the kind of shifting sands in this whole thing, learning in-game what do you do, what don’t you do. We test Friday nights, too, so you’re hoping your PCR test is getting that, but it’s still a 50-50 proposition if you’re cooking over that time, so there’s still a little bit of uncertainty.”
Notre Dame is set to resume practice today ahead of October 10’s game vs. Florida State. Last weekend’s game vs. Wake Forest was postponed until December 12.