The University of Michigan athletics department has paused all team and department activities due to concern over the new COVID-19 variant infiltrating U-M student athletes. The variant is believed to be more deadly and transmissible than previous variants.
The athletics department and Warde Manuel released a statement on the matter, where they lay out why the shut things down, and what lies ahead.
“Under a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) decision made Saturday (Jan. 23), the University of Michigan Athletic Department will immediately pause athletic activities in all sports, including games, team and individual training sessions, until further notice and up to 14 days.
While U-M has worked diligently on testing and reporting within state and Big Ten Conference guidelines, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is mandating a more aggressive strategy for this B.1.1.7 variant, which exceeds current program efforts designed around the standard form of the virus.
The mandate follows positive test results for the SAR-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant virus infections from several individuals linked to the U-M Athletic Department through its diligent testing regiment. The B.1.1.7 variant is thought to be approximately 50 percent more transmissible than the standard form of the virus, leading to faster spread of the virus, potentially increased numbers of cases, and additional hospitalizations and deaths. Therefore, a pause of all athletic activities and a closure of all U-M athletic facilities are being taken to strengthen the public health intervention. Team members (student-athletes, coaches, and team staff) must immediately isolate/quarantine effective Jan. 23 until further notice and up to 14 days (Feb. 7).
“Canceling competitions is never something we want to do, but with so many unknowns about this variant of COVID-19, we must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools,” said Warde Manuel, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics.
University public health officials are working closely with the Washtenaw County Health Department and Michigan Department of Human Health Services on additional mitigation strategies to address the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant in the university community. The university will be carefully considering additional mitigation measures. There are many unknowns that remain under investigation by U-M, local and state public health officials.
No determination has been made on how the pause may impact scheduled games beyond Feb. 7.”
This is a developing situation that will surely have more twists, turns, and information divulged.