Notre Dame football on Monday announced 18 positive coronavirus tests out of 273 administered from Sept. 22-27, including seven who were already in quarantine due to contact tracing. The Irish currently have 25 players in isolation and another 14 in quarantine due to contact tracing.
Irish coach Brian Kelly on Tuesday said team doctors determined two causes of that outbreak, both of which stemmed from the team’s Sept. 19 game against South Florida and which caused the postponement of the following week’s contest against Wake Forest.
The first of those, Kelly said, was a pregame meal the team ate together; prior to that, all team meals had been socially distanced to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease.
“Throughout our entire time together, we had not had one meal where we sat down together,” Kelly said (via ESPN). “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.”
The second event, Kelly said, is a player who vomited on the sidelines during the team’s game against the Bulls. Because the player didn’t have a concussion or any other injuries, he was treated for dehydration. Two days later, he tested positive for COVID-19.
“In trying to discern the difference between somebody who may be dehydrated in a game and having the effects of COVID on the sideline, (it) becomes very tricky,” Kelly said. “Just being vigilant and understanding that this thing can hide in so many different areas make it a tricky proposition, even if you’re doing all of the right things.”
Despite having 25 players in isolation, the team on Monday was cleared to return to practice on Wednesday. Kelly said he expects 90 percent of his team will be able to practice by Saturday. Moreover, he said the team learned lessons from their mistakes: Players will now eat pregame meals at a convention center, where they can easily eat 6 feet apart and avoid face-to-face contact. The team will also have rapid antigen tests available on the sideline.
Notre Dame, ranked No. 5 in the latest AP Top 25 poll after a 2-0 start, has not played since that Sept. 19 game against South Florida. The Irish have a bye on Saturday before returning to play a home game against Florida State on Oct. 10. That game, if it’s not canceled, will be Notre Dame’s first in 22 days.