By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa point guard Joe Toussaint tries not to think about the risks from the Covid-19 global pandemic, but don’t mistake that for him being careless of dismissive.
“If I’m being honest, I don’t really think of Covid like that,” Toussaint said Monday. “I already got vaccinated. I already have my booster shot as well.
“I just try to put those things behind me because those things can mess with you on the court. I just try to put those things to the side, and if it gets serious, then we can talk about it again and take different steps.”
Unfortunately, the effects from Covid-19 are getting serious again, serious enough that three Big Ten teams and many others across the nation are on pause because of health concerns.
The Iowa women’s basketball team also has had three games cancelled this season due to positive Covid cases, including its trip to Cancun during the Thanksgiving break.
The Iowa men (8-3) will face Southeastern Louisiana (4-8) on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and as of now, the game will be played as scheduled.
Everyone associated with the Iowa men’s team has been fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot, according to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
“I didn’t have to sell it at all. They were all in,” Fran McCaffery said of his players being vaccinated. “Nobody questioned it.
“Luckily, we’re in a position to be able to provide it, but in a way relatively early, so they got vaccinated relatively early, and they got boostered at the appropriate time.”
And while the new Covid variant has spread like a wildfire throughout the country, the Iowa players have managed to avoid getting seriously ill.
“We haven’t had any real issues with regard to guys feeling sick” Fran McCaffery said. “We had a couple situations where guys felt not so great for a couple hours and they were fine. But the guys are all in.”
The hope was that Covid would be a thing of the past by now, but with new variants surfacing, and with millions still not vaccinated in the United States, the threat continues to linger.
Fans are back in the stands after not being able to attend games during the 2020-21 season, but even that could change if cases continue to rise.
Toussaint is in his third year at Iowa, and more than half of his time as a Hawkeye has been spent dealing with a global pandemic that has killed more than 800,000 in the United States alone.
The sophomores on the Iowa team have spent their entire time in college dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
“Think about it, if you think about the freshman class last year when they came in how unique it was for them,” Fran McCaffery said. “They get to campus, there’s nobody here. We were practicing, then we played the whole season without any fans until the Big Ten Tournament, so they were kind of — they didn’t have a typical freshman year. They didn’t go to any football games. Nobody was really going out downtown. They did a little bit.
“So, it was kind of a strange situation, but something we addressed. Not something we harp on, just be diligent, be intelligent with where you go, who you’re seeing. But I think the vaccination status of our guys has really been helpful.”
The Iowa players have learned how best to deal with the pandemic. It comes down to being responsible, being careful and being selective about where you go and who you associate with.
The players also try to stick together as a way to limit the risks.
“If you do what you have to do, obviously, it’s very unfortunate sometimes because Covid spreads from a variety of ways,” Toussaint said. “And with the new strain, there’s just a whole bunch of things going on. But if you stay within your cohorts I feel like you’ll be fine.
“Just be mindful where you go, what you do. Wear a mask. Yeah, we’re vaccinated, but it doesn’t prevent us from getting it. Just take the right precautions and if you do that, you’ll be fine.”
Following Tuesday’s game, Iowa will have a week off for the holidays before facing Western Illinois on Dec. 29 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Toussaint looks forward to spending Christmas with his family in New York City where he grew up. It’ll be his first trip home since this past summer.
“The cases over there are rising. It’s bad over there,” Toussaint said of New York City. “But my family is vaccinated as well. They’ve got the booster shot as well. So, thank God for that.”
Sophomore forward Kris Murray was asked Monday what the players and coaches could do to make it through the season unscathed.
“I think the booster shots we got a week ago was a stepping stone for that,” Kris Murray said. “I think we all do a pretty good job of staying in our own circle and not getting ourselves in a position where we can potentially be shutdown.
“I think we learned a lot last year, and I think that’s going to help us get through this year, too.”
But after nearly two years of having to guard against the threat from Covid-19, Kris Murray has come to accept the new normal.
“I think it’s going to be something that isn’t going away for a while,” he said. “It’s just something we need to control.”