By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – About a week ago, a friend texted me and warned that Covid-19 cases were about to explode on the University of Iowa campus.
This person said there was no real plan of action to check, or to contain the virus on campus, and was very concerned about the potential consequences.
This person, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was only a matter of time before the Iowa athletic department would be dealing with a disturbing rise in cases because the virus was spreading uncontrollably on campus and there was no stopping it.
Unfortunately, this person’s sobering prediction was right as evidenced when Iowa announced on Monday that it was pausing all voluntary and mandatory workouts for student-athletes until after Labor Day due to a rise in positive cases.
“Due to the recent increase in cases in the community, we have made the decision to pause voluntary and mandatory workouts until after Labor Day,” said Dr. Andrew Peterson, UI professor and head team physician. “We remain confident in our overall process, including testing, contact tracing and daily health screening.”
The department conducted 815 COVID-19 tests for the week of Aug. 24-30, 2020; 93 positive tests and 722 negative tests were received. As part of the return to campus protocol, testing began May 29, 2020, and includes student-athletes, coaches and staff. A total of 176 positive tests, 2,560 negative tests and one inconclusive test have been received.
Those numbers will undoubtedly be looked at differently depending on where you stand with the virus, and with the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the fall football season.
Those who agree with the decision, or who at least accept the decision, will say these numbers are further proof that the Big Ten Conference made the right decision, and did so in order to protect the student-athletes and coaches, while those who disagree with the decision will say these numbers are misleading, or they’ll say the odds of a student-athlete becoming seriously ill are slim to none, so let’s play football.
Some also will argue that student-athletes are better protected from the virus while practicing as a team in a structured and supervised environment.
And while maybe that is true, it’s also unrealistic to think that student-athletes could live in a bubble for two or three months where they do nothing but practice, play in games and take classes online because that would be asking too much.
But that’s where we are right now with the Covid-19 global pandemic, both as a nation and as the Iowa fan base.
And sadly, the divisiveness and mistrust is costing us in so many ways, including the loss of a fall season of Hawkeye football.
The Big Ten Conference has made a bad situation worse with its lack of transparency, and with its lack of a cohesive plan to deal with the virus.
But it would seem unfair and misguided to blame the Big Ten for 93 student-athletes having tested positive for the virus in the week leading up to what was supposed to be the Iowa football team’s 2020 season opener.
League sources told ESPN that Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State were the three Big Ten schools that voted against postponing the fall season.
That will certainly draw favor with the fans who want to play this fall, but now less than a month since voting, Iowa had to pause its workouts.
You can try to minimize the threat of the virus, and accuse the Big Ten of living in fear, and of being part of a political conspiracy, but that still won’t change the number of positive cases on the Iowa campus, or on any campus for that matter.
The only place in the United States more infectious right now than the Iowa campus is the Iowa State campus in Ames.
Students might be at low risk of getting seriously ill, but the older you are, the more vulnerable you are to the virus.
Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz turned 65 years old on Aug. 1st, while quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe turned 67 on Aug. 18th. Steps have to be taken to protect them, and pausing workouts due to a rise in positive cases is part of that protection.
And to think, Iowa and Iowa State were scheduled to meet in their annual showdown on Sept. 12 at Kinnick Stadium.
I remember thinking and hoping back in the spring that we’d have fall football, and now look at things.
We’re no closer to playing football now than we were in the spring, and we only have ourselves to blame.
The students in many ways were setup to fail by the adults when they returned to campus because they were allowed to pack into bars and restaurants, turning those places into petri dishes.
Those bars have since been shut down again, but it’s too late because the damage already has been done.
The number of positive cases continues to rise, and until that changes, nothing else will change in regard to playing football.
So much about the virus has become political, even something as innocent as wearing a mask.
It now seems pretty obvious that wearing a mask and social distancing helps to contain the spread of the virus.
So just do it.
Just swallow your pride and put your political beliefs aside for the sake of Hawkeye football.
What I don’t understand are those who refuse to wear a mask, but then complain and make up conspiracy theories in response to positive cases being on the rise.
And while most of the positive cases don’t become serious, enough do to where the numbers continue to dictate this story, fair or not
And until everybody realizes that or accepts it, the plot to this story won’t change.
I sympathizes with both sides of this argument because there are no winners, only losers.
I feel for the student-athletes because they only have so long to play college sports and this virus has now been making life miserable for nearly six months.
It ruined the end of last season, and is on the verge of ruining the fall sports season.
Iowa just announced last week that it was cutting four sports due to budget shortfalls caused by the virus.
As for my friend who texted me about the virus, to say that he or she still is concerned would be an understatement.
This person thinks the number of positive cases will continue to rise on campus, and we all know what that means.
We need to figure a way to beat this virus, or, at least contain it, because what we’re doing right now isn’t working as we were reminded with Monday’s disturbing announcement.