Last Wednesday, Penn State released the first of what’s expected to be many bi-monthly reports updating the public on the status of its student-athletes’ health as it relates to the coronavirus.
The results, to be shared every other Wednesday, have been encouraging.
“As of July 10, Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics has conducted a total of 178 COVID-19 tests of student-athletes as part of its return to campus protocol with 0 positive tests and 31 pending tests,” Penn State said in its latest update.
After more than a month on campus for voluntary workouts, no Penn State student-athlete has tested positive for COVID-19. Last week’s results were the second Penn State shared with members of the media.
On July 1, Penn State vice president of intercollegiate athletics Sandy Barbour said 102 of her program’s student-athletes had been tested for COVID-19 as of June 30, and each test came back negative.
Penn State, like every other program around the country that has allowed its student-athletes to return to campus amidst the global health crisis, is attempting to monitor players’ safety while also preparing them to compete in the fall sports season.
The NCAA in June cleared players for a return to campus for voluntary workouts. They were isolated in quarantine upon their arrival to their respective schools, given coronavirus tests, and then had a battery of checks before being cleared for activity.
Numerous programs have since reported positive coronavirus test results for their student-athletes. In the Big Ten alone, student-athletes at Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers, Minnesota and Nebraska have tested positive.
Maryland last week temporarily suspended its voluntary workouts after nine football players tested positive. Ohio State did the same for a brief period this month, but announced Tuesday it would resume workouts.
Penn State football players have offered a glimpse into what returning to the program has entailed.
Players were isolated in local hotels for a week, and received their food from a Grubhub-like delivery service in an attempt to limit their exposure. When they finally stepped foot back on campus, each player was given a coronavirus test and underwent a physical.
“As far as the (coronavirus) test, it was a unique experience,” Penn State cornerback Keaton Ellis said last month. “It wasn’t too invasive. It took 15 seconds.”
In player arrival pictures shared by the school’s football Twitter account, thermometers, hand-sanitizing stations and instructions for safe social-distancing were ever-present.
In further attempts to keep players protected, access to the team’s players’ lounge and nutrition bar is restricted. Activities are limited to Holuba Hall, the team’s indoor football facility.
“As far as access to facilities, they’re being very strict,” Ellis explained. “They have a lot of stuff in place so we can move forward successfully. Right now, we’re strictly going to be in Holuba for the most part. That stuff will evolve as time goes on, and they’re just looking out for our health, which is good. They have really good plans put in place.”
The unprecedented circumstances brought forth this year have posed newfound challenges.
Up this point, Penn State has succeeded in protecting its student-athletes.
Elton Hayes covers Penn State athletics for The Daily Item. Email him at email@example.com.