Michigan Pauses All Athletics Due to Positive COVID Tests for New Variant

The University of Michigan has paused “athletic activities in all sports, including games, team and individual training sessions, until further notice and up to 14 days.” This statement is following positive test results for the new B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant from “several individuals linked to the U-M Athletic Department through its diligent testing regiment.”

All athletic team members including the student-athletes, coaches, and team staff have been ordered to isolate and quarantine starting today, January 23rd, until February 7th.

As of Saturday, the university as a whole has reported 5 cases of the new B.1.1.7 variant. All 5 are in isolation and are experiencing no symptoms or mild symptoms.

On Saturday, Michigan hosted a swim and dive tri-meet against Michigan State and Rutgers University in which Michigan topped both schools. This was possibly the last dual meet between Michigan and Michigan State after MSU announced its decision to cut the swimming and diving program in October.

“Canceling competitions is never something we want to do,” said Warde Manuel, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. “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.”

The University of Vermont announced a pause to “all athletics” on Saturday as well after they saw an increase in positive COVID-19 tests within their athletics program.

Michigan’s next meet was scheduled for February 6th against arch-rivals Ohio State, which is before that 14-day pause on athletics will be up. In their press release, Michigan also stated that “no determination has been made on how the pause may impact scheduled games beyond Feb. 7.”

Beyond the obvious implications for the college program, this ‘pause’ has a big global impact too – the defending World Champion in the 100 fly Maggie MacNeil trains as an undergrad at the University of Michigan. If she were to return home to Canada, she would still have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine as part of that country’s COVID-19 safety protocols. MacNeil received some reprieve when this week she was nominated as one of 6 pre-selected athletes for Canada’s Tokyo2020 Olympic Team.

The Michigan women finished as runners-up at the 2020 Big Ten Championship meet behind Ohio State. At the most recent NCAA Championship meet, in 2019, they finished in 3rd place, which was the team’s best finish since 1996.

The Michigan men are the defending Big Ten Champions, though repeating would be a tall task this year as they graduated more than twice as many points as the next-closest team. The Michigan men finished in 13th place at the 2019 NCAA Championship meet.

The Big Ten has announced a 3-meet schedule for the 2021 swimming & diving championships, with men’s and women’s diving scheduled for February 24-27 at Purdue, the women’s swimming championships scheduled for February 24-27 at Minnesota, and the men’s swimming championships scheduled for March 3-6 at Ohio State.

According to the CDC, this new COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant is still being studied and so far “there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death.” 

The New York Times reported that the state of Michigan had a 49% decrease in COVID-19 cases over the past 2 weeks. 2,523 new cases were reported on January 22nd in relation to the average of cases reported daily in the past week (2,205). The state’s death total since the beginning of the pandemic has reached 15,170 deaths.

As of January 23rd, the state of Michigan has reported that it has distributed just over 1 million COVID-19 vaccines.

The Michigan athletics department’s most recent COVID testing update, through January 22 (Friday), saw 22 new positive tests among student-athletes, and none among staff, in a week where they conducted 2,240 tests. In total, 254 Michigan student-athletes and 28 staff members have tested positive for a coronavirus infection. Those numbers are from around 1000 total student-athletes for the Wolverines, though it’s unclear how many of those are currently on campus.

Full Michigan Press Release

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — 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.

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#MFan
1 year ago
Last edited 1 year ago by #MFan
Greg
1 year ago

My sources have communicated that approx 50% of the UM student-athletes are currently in some sort of quarantine due to contact tracing. That is probably why the department wide pause.

BTW – Feb 5-7 Water Polo @ASU is cancelled.

Kathy Matlock
1 year ago

5 cases total at the whole school ? Or 5 with the new variant ? All 5 are from swimmers ?

SwimFan
Reply to  Kathy Matlock
1 year ago

Not from the swim program. A UK athlete brought the new strain to campus after being home for the holidays. No swimmers from the UK on the swim rosters,my guess track and field as they have several UK on the roster.

Your mom
Reply to  SwimFan
1 year ago

It was a water polo player

SwimFan
1 year ago

Agree with the comments that Big 10 has handled things poorly this year. I am also interested in why Michigan would allow any athletes to travel internationally and allow them right back on campus with no quarantine upon returning. I have an active duty family member who had to quarantine at his new assignment in Italy and who came down with COVID while in quarantine- as he traveled on normal carriers and most likely picked up while flying, he didn’thaveit leaving his US base. My D1 swimmer came home, didn’t fly, didn’t leave the state, he and the entire team had to quarantine upon returning to campus before allowed back into practice because they left campus for Christmas.

Peanutbutterbaby
1 year ago

Michigan swimming had nothing to do with shutdown

#MFan
Reply to  Peanutbutterbaby
1 year ago

it was a water polo athlete that went to UK

Doconc
1 year ago

So incidence is down 50% in state
New variant no change in death rate
5 cases in non swimmers

2 week full stop??

How does that make sense??

swimfin5
Reply to  Doconc
1 year ago

Football season is over and Manuel doesn’t care about any other sports… takes every opportunity to save money

Kirk Nelson
Reply to  swimfin5
1 year ago

I’d think he’d care about his Big Ten leading and top ten ranked men’s basketball team.

swimfin5
Reply to  Kirk Nelson
1 year ago

Oh I am sure unofficially they will keep practicing

swimfin5
1 year ago

Manuel is going for an award from Whitmer, if he shuts down more she likes him more

SwimMidwest
1 year ago

Say what you want, but the pandemic has revealed a lot about those in charge Big Ten schools. Big Ten athletes have gotten the short end of the stick as far as overreactions to all covid related matters – from football to swimming.

About Annika Johnson

Annika Johnson

Annika came into the sport competitively at age eight, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and older brother. The sibling rivalry was further fueled when all three began focusing on distance freestyle, forcing the family to buy two lap counters. Annika is a three-time Futures finalist in the 200 …

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