The University of Houston announced on Friday that it was suspending in-person voluntary workouts for student-athletes “out of an abundance of caution” after 6 tested positive for COVID-19 this week. All 6 who tested positive were symptomatic.
While Houston is not the first school to have positive tests since the NCAA allowed voluntary in-person workouts to resume on June 1, the on campus outbreak comes in the context of a growing number of cases in the area.
According to New York Times data, Harris County, the 3rd-most populous county in the United States, has averaged 323 new daily coronavirus infections. That’s up about 50% from two weeks ago, though it’s still below the rate of New York City, the country’s hardest-hit area, which is averaging 435 daily new cases in spite of a dramatic slowing of spread there.
The Texas Medical Center in Houston, the largest medical complex in the world, is reporting a 20% increase in ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients. The center’s hospitals have seen new records for COVID-19 hospitalizations in 4 of the last 5 days.
At least 20 states have seen rises in coronavirus cases over the last month. The spike in Houston has led to local officials announcing that they were weighing options for reinstating a stay-at-home order, even as most of the country has lifted the heaviest such orders.
The University of Houston is the first school to suspend athletic activities after restarting them. Football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball teams were the first allowed back on campus.
Under NCAA rules, current allowed in-person activities are general conditioning activities without coaches. There are exceptions for swimming & diving coaches and strength coaches, who are allowed to supervise for safety purposes, but are not supposed to be actively coaching.
Unlike many schools, the University of Houston did not test student-athletes upon their return to campus. In wake of the outbreak on campus, however, the school says that it is “adapting its protocols to include repetitive COVID-19 testing as a component of any resumption of workouts on campus.”
The University of Houston women’s swimming & diving team has won 4 straight American Athletic Conference championships and had 5 swimmers qualified for the 2020 NCAA Championship meet before it was cancelled.
According to Houston Chronicle reported Joseph Duarte, the following schools have reported COVID-19 positive tests since reopening their campuses to student-athletes:
- Arkansas State
- Boise State
- Florida State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech
Texas Governor Greg Abbott had a call with the athletics directors of FBS schools in the state this week, where he said that he did intend to allow spectators at college football games in the fall, but that he didn’t anticipate allowing greater than 50% capacity. The state is home to 3 of the 9 largest college football stadiums in the country: Kyle Field at Texas A&M (102,733); the Cotton Bowl in Dallas (96,009); and Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium at Texas (95,594).
While most schools are focusing on a return to campus for fall sports and profitable sports (like basketball), a handful of schools do have swimming programs returning to campus for voluntary workouts. That includes Louisville, Texas A&M, and Delaware.