The United States mainland on Thursday recorded its highest single-day death toll – 2,804 – since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the same day that the University of the Virgin Islands announced that in the best interest of its student-athletes it has canceled spring sports for 2021, curtailing athletic travel to and from the states.
“An increase of cases in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana, the competition states for all UVI athletic competition, is expected to reach an all-time high. In light of this, the Athletics Department has concluded that the risks are far too great for student-athletes and staff to travel,” the university said in a news release issued Friday.
In the release, UVI Athletic Director Jerel Drew said, “The health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as our coaches, staff and all stakeholders, will always be our top priority.”
In a telephone interview, Drew said that if a player were to travel to the states and test positive, that player and a member of the UVI staff would have to stay on the mainland until the infected player clears quarantine protocols, at least 14 days after the positive test.
Another major concern is that the team could travel to the states and not show symptoms for a few days.
“The worst circumstance we could have is a student-athlete test positive in the transition of coming back from a competition and now putting their staff and their teammates at risk. You’re always one instance away from completely shutting down,” Drew said.
He wanted people to understand that even though the team would not be competing, practices will still take place.
“We are still going to be heavy on working out and strength and conditioning,” and “we will focus on being more proactive in the community,” he said.
Drew said the school will use the time to relaunch and rebrand UVI’s athletic program.
“We will also focus on our local recruitment, sponsorships, community service and alumni engagement,” he said.
Some UVI coaches have already met with high-school coaches in socially distant settings to begin the local recruiting process.
“We are going to look to sign great local talent,” Drew said.
Since college sports resumed in the U.S., a slew of events has been canceled and postponed every weekend as COVID-19 outbreaks affected universities across the nation.
The Ivy League, which last March became the first college league to cancel basketball as the pandemic first began spreading across the country, on Nov. 12 canceled winter and delayed spring sports until at least the end of February.
COVID has shifted the competitive balance of sporting events, as players are being forced to sit due to contracting the virus and contact tracing. An example of how quickly the virus can get out-of-hand within a sports team is the Denver Broncos of the National Football League. The Broncos were forced to play a game Nov. 29 without an active quarterback on their roster, as one of their QB’s contracted the virus and the team’s other three, who shared the quarterback room with him, were deemed close contacts after the league learned they watched a film and didn’t wear masks for the whole meeting. The team ended up playing a rookie wide receiver at quarterback and lost badly.
Even with stringent protocols and testing, there is no guarantee that participating in athletic events won’t spread the coronavirus among athletes and the community they live in.
Recently the STX Open Tennis Tournament was been postponed until Jan. 14 through 24.