With the ongoing pandemic of the novel coronavirus, universities and other institutions have implemented procedures to protect people and students from infection. With nearly everything being cancelled for almost an entire year, people hoped to come up with solutions in order to allow for safe, smart, and efficient ways for students, people, and others to go about their daily lives similar to life before the pandemic. Athletics have become a major topic of conversation when it comes to safety and COVID, so universities have developed plans to safeguard their athletes. Virginia Wesleyan University in particular, had initiated the “Help Us Play” campaign in order to raise funds for their plan, athlete testing.
The plan was simple: test athletes on a regular basis to prevent the spread of COVID amongst teams. Simultaneously, athletics as a whole would be practicing safe disease prevention spread techniques, such as mask wearing, social distancing, etc. Was this solution effective? Firstly, all athletics came back within the first three weeks of winter session. During this time, all classes were remote, and only athletes were allowed to live on campus. Over the span of this three week period, the athletic department saw no problems with any of the athletes, having close to no positive tests. The next week is when the trouble began. As soon as the general student population returned to campus, the athletic department quickly began seeing some cases. There were multiple instances where multiple athletes on a team were to be tested and quarantined, and this trend continues up until now. The number of cases has started to diminish slightly, but there has been at least 1 new confirmed case on campus each week.
Back to the testing aspect. Would more athletes have gotten the virus from others if the testing was implemented? Most definitely. Students who have symptoms seem to not be as cautious within the first few days of their illness. The testing allows for these students to be pointed out, and quarantined and dealt with earlier than they would’ve. It keeps these athletes in check, and more accountable. Just the idea of testing is effective, which is making sure that athletes are responsible on the field, and more importantly off the field with their decisions. Furthermore, especially on road trips, some social distancing guidelines are difficult to follow. Referring especially to the buses, athletes breathe the same air, regardless of the effectiveness of their mask. The testing allows for quick identification of athletes who may have been exposed to the virus whilst on a roadtrip or other event.
Some might argue that the effectiveness of the athlete testing is only effective if only the whole school were to be tested. If athletics were not playing intercollegiate competition, this would be true. However, athletes are subject to other schools’ possible outbreaks, and preventing the spread from school to school is important to keeping the entire population of Virginia Wesleyan safe. Furthermore, certain athletics teams are tested more than others based on potential risk. For example, a basketball team is much more at risk of exposure from others than a baseball team. There are many factors that play into this, but the adjustment of testing to fit the needs of teams allows for more efficient testing, and placing resources where needed.
All in all, the testing of athletes has increased the number of confirmed cases on campus. However, it has also increased the safety of the campus because of it. It is better for a case to be confirmed and dealt with, than be hidden to others and able to spread amongst the community. So the testing this spring not only makes athletics safer and able to compete, but keeps the Virginia Wesleyan community as a whole safer.
By Christopher Morris