The University of Notre Dame and Wake Forest University postponed Saturday's football game due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Now head coach of the Fighting Irish, Brian Kelly, has explained how issues arose. He said that a team dinner was to blame for the sudden spike in positive coronavirus cases.
Speaking with ESPN, Kelly explained that the players took part in a pregame meal ahead of a battle with the University of South Florida. He explained that one of the players was asymptomatic. Additionally, Kelly said that one player threw up on the sideline during the game and received treatment for dehydration at the time but later tested positive for the coronavirus. Now Kelly says the team will make several adjustments in order to keep the players healthy for the remainder of the season.
"Throughout our entire time together, we had not had one meal where we sat down together," Kelly explained. "Everything was grab and go. We get into our game situation where we have pregame meal together, and that cost us. Big. We had somebody who was asymptomatic, and it spread like wildfire throughout our meeting area where we were eating and then it got guys in contact tracing."
Following the pregame meal, 25 players were in isolation and 14 were in quarantine. The 18 positive tests came from a round of 273 tests conducted between Tuesday and Saturday. Notre Dame responded to the positives by suspending all team activities and postponing the Wake Forest game until Dec. 12.
The Notre Dame football team will resume activities on Wednesday, but they will do so with new guidelines moving forward. Pregame meals will now take place in hotel ballrooms where players can avoid face-to-face contact and remain at least six feet apart. The team will also now have rapid antigen tests available on the sidelines during games.
"We have to think about giving antigen tests on the sidelines for stuff that we never thought of," Kelly said while discussing the sideline vomiting incident. "That's the kind of shifting sands in this whole thing, learning in-game what do you do, what don't you do. We test Friday nights, too, so you're hoping your PCR test is getting that, but it's still a 50-50 proposition if you're cooking over that time, so there's still a little bit of uncertainty."
Following a 2-0 start to the season with victories over Duke and USF, Notre Dame will likely resume practice on Saturday. The next game is against Florida State and will take place on Oct. 10. Kelly said that this was not an "ideal situation" but expressed optimism about his team bouncing back from the weeks away.