After having voluntary workouts start back on June 15, Northern Arizona Athletics has released some information on its protocols for its resocialization plan.
Northern Arizona Athletics did not disclose whether any student-athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, citing the small number of athletes currently on campus and not wanting to identify individuals who test positive. According to the Coconino County daily dashboard, as of Wednesday, the zip code designated to NAU's campus (86011) has had eight reported positive cases of COVID-19.
"The number of student athletes on our campus is small, and so to identify any of them as potentially having tested positive for COVID arguably might allow them to be identified, which would violate their privacy," Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Marlow said in an email. "We have and will continue to work with university and county health officials."
But based off a letter addressed to Skyjacks members that was provided by the department's sports information office, Marlow acknowledged that positive cases are likely to happen.
"Like every other athletic program in our country, NAU will have positive cases of COVID-19," Marlow wrote. "Our well-researched and guided protocols are intended to identify, isolate and treat those who have tested positive."
The letter did not explicitly state whether workouts or practices would be suspended due to positive tests.
For training and conditioning, all athletes have been required to complete electronic COVID-19 screening and self-isolate for 14 days prior to starting their workouts.
From there, if the athlete's screening showed a risk for COVID-19 infection, the athlete has to have a test done. The letter stated that athletics would follow reporting guidelines.
Each time an athlete enters the Walkup Skydome, they go to a screening station where their temperature is checked and they are asked questions to see if they are showing any symptoms. If an individual's temperature is above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they will be sent home and then have to consult with the team physician or athletic medicine staff.
Masks are required during workouts and the groups are kept to just 10 in the weight room at one time.
As for actual practices, Marlow wrote that the department is on track to begin those on Aug. 4.
"Practice is currently scheduled to begin on August 4th following voluntary workouts," Marlow wrote in the letter. "We continue to prepare for this in the same manner we have prepared for voluntary workouts by learning from our peer athletic programs across the country and following guidance by many of the entities described previously."
To keep practices as safe as possible, the letter stated that only athletics personnel would be allowed at practices, locker rooms will be mostly closed, and the Skydome will not be used -- it did not specify if that pertains to a specific sport, but it is likely that it relates to football.
Daily screening will continue when practices start and some practice drills may be changed.
As for gameday, that isn't really up to Northern Arizona as the decision to cancel or postpone will fall on other entities or force the department's hand if the time comes.
For now, there are no finalized plans due to the changing environment and uncertainty about the fall sports seasons.
"Much planning still needs to be done here and many decisions will be made as we get closer to our teams’ competitions," Marlow wrote. "This is common in our industry as evidenced by the fact that the University of Georgia and others of similar status are not planning to release final gameday guidelines until August. As illustrated above, our focus is on the safe and meaningful preparation of our student-athletes for their competitive sports seasons."
Currently, no plans have been announced by the NCAA or the Big Sky Conference to postpone or drastically change the fall athletics schedule for any sport.
Around the Big Sky
Idaho State announced Tuesday that two student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19 and then subsequently suspended workouts. States across the Big Sky have seen rising cases but not all schools are announcing positive cases such as Idaho State.
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