After administering 1,012 COVID-19 tests in the last week, 12 student-athletes and staff tested positive, Virginia Athletics announced Monday. With the new round of positive cases, the number of positive COVID-19 test results reported in the last three weeks is 56 and the total number of positives reported since student-athletes began their return to Grounds July 5 is 76.
Jim Daves, assistant athletics director for media relations, previously clarified that Virginia’s in-season COVID-19 testing updates would not include the number of hospitalizations, if any, or the unique number of individuals tested. Additionally, the athletics department will not specify which Virginia teams are responsible for the positive test results.
The most recent update comes after the athletics department announced 22 positive COVID-19 cases for two consecutive weeks.
Virginia Athletics’ positivity rate over the last seven days — between Sept. 28 and Oct. 4 — was 1.1 percent. The total positivity rate since the testing program began at the beginning of July is 1.3 percent — 76 positive tests out of 6,004 tests administered.
“All positive tests were reported to the Thomas Jefferson Health District of the Virginia Department of Health,” the press release said. “The individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were notified according to local health guidelines as a means to trace contacts.”
Per ACC regulations, student-athletes on the football, field hockey, volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams are tested three times per week. The men’s and women’s cross country teams are not tested as frequently as the other in-season teams since the sport isn’t considered as risky in terms of possible COVID-19 exposure. Teams that are out-of-season are not tested as often as those currently competing.
All tests are administered by U.Va. Health except for the round of testing the ACC requires for the football team immediately before games. These tests are administered by Mako Medical — an independent third-party health care diagnostic laboratory based in Raleigh, N.C.
For the first time since July, Virginia Athletics reported that members of the Virginia football team tested positive for COVID-19. Seven football players were unavailable for the team’s away game at Clemson Saturday due to issues surrounding COVID-19, including positive test results and contact tracing. These players were in either isolation or quarantine at the time. In addition, one football coach tested positive for COVID-19. In a press conference Monday, Mendenhall elaborated that the cause of the outbreak remains unknown.
Mendenhall described the positive results within the football team as “a wakeup call of just how fast and how random that it can happen.” He also added that the team was implementing new protocols going forward to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Let's face it … I would have to say [that positive test results are] likely when you have this many people doing the same things daily and having the contact we are even as effectively as we've done it,” Mendenhall said.
Specifically, Mendenhall mentioned that new mitigation measures would address locker proximity. By adding new lockers, dividing the team into designated locker room spaces and scheduling entry times to minimize the number of players in the locker room at one time, the team hopes to create enough space in between players to avoid COVID-19 issues.
“Testing positive is one thing, but you can actually lose significantly more players through contact tracing than just the positive test,” Mendenhall said. “So that's really a test of the protocol, so I'm looking hard at redesigning and putting new best practices or new practices in place right now.”
Multiple games involving Virginia teams were postponed this past weekend. Virginia volleyball’s second game against Duke — scheduled for last Saturday — was delayed after issues arose relating to COVID-19 and injuries prevented the Cavaliers from having enough available players. In addition Virginia men’s soccer’s season opener against Virginia Tech was postponed reportedly due to COVID-19 concerns in Virginia Tech’s program.
Virginia Athletics’ press release also reported an oversight in its Sept. 28 COVID-19 testing results update. The previous report only included tests administered by U.Va. Health and did not include the ACC-required tests administered by Mako Medical to the football team the day before its season opener against Duke. While the actual number of tests conducted was 149 more than what was originally reported, the number of positive results remained the same.
“Last week’s total number of tests should have been 1,317 (originally reported as 1,168),” the press release said. “The total number of positive test results (22) did not change from the reporting period. The percentage of positive tests for that period should have been 1.7 percent (originally reported at 1.8 percent).”
As of Friday, there were 270 active COVID-19 cases in the University community including faculty, staff, students and contract employees. Of these 270 cases, 252 — or 93.3 percent — were student cases. Additionally, 29 percent of the University’s quarantine rooms, which are for students exposed to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, and 9 percent of its isolation rooms, meant for those who have tested positive themselves, were full.
Every test administered by the athletics department in coordination with U.Va. Health is reflected in the University’s COVID-19 tracker.
This article has been updated.