On Wednesday, seven days after its football program paused all team-related activities, Washington reported 25 active positive cases of COVID-19 in its athletic department — 14 more than a week ago.
The university chooses not to specify how many positive COVID-19 cases belong to each individual program “to protect the health information of our student-athletes,” according to UW associate athletic director for health and wellness Rob Scheidegger. Since UW athletes began returning to campus on June 15, 560 athletes have received 6,360 PCR tests with 79 total positive cases (1.24%).
The UW football program paused all team-related activities last Wednesday following a significant surge of positive COVID-19 cases and contact tracing. As a result, the Huskies were forced to cancel their rivalry game at Oregon last weekend, then withdraw from the Pac-12 championship game Friday at USC.
Washington football coach Jimmy Lake said in a news conference Monday that the members of his program who have tested positive “have mild symptoms and nothing extremely serious.”
The Pac-12 requires 53 available scholarship players — including one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen — to qualify for competition. Due to the aforementioned positive tests and contact tracing, UW fell short of the 53-player minimum and had zero offensive linemen — whether scholarship players or walk-ons — available to play.
“Our offensive line is completely gone,” Lake confirmed. “We cannot play. We cannot practice.”
Washington also had two previous games canceled due to COVID-19 issues tied to its opponents — California on Nov. 7 and Washington State on Nov. 27. After the Apple Cup was canceled, Washington instead played Utah in a replacement game Nov. 28 at home — erasing a 21-0 halftime deficit to earn a dramatic 24-21 victory.
Scheidegger said Monday that “we saw our first (positive COVID-19) cases way back the Friday before the game we played against Utah. But those cases were single, isolated cases. We worked really closely with our COVID response and prevention unit here on campus and (King County) Public Health to track those cases, and there wasn’t anything that specifically linked those cases together.”
Eventually, though, the case count continued to multiply. The Huskies will need to register consecutive days with zero positive cases before being cleared to resume practice.
“This virus is just spreading across the whole country,” said Lake, who added he’s confident his team will be able to return for a bowl game. “It doesn’t cherry pick where it’s going to go and where it’s not going to go. It goes everywhere.
“Our guys did a fantastic job, and they continue to do a really good job of doing all the stuff our medical team has advised them to do. Unfortunately, this virus is just … it’s wicked, and it’s extremely infectious. We’re seeing that right now, and we have been seeing that for months now with other teams that have felt the veracity of this thing.”