For the second time in as many weeks, UAlbany had to shut down all athletics-related activities because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
UAlbany announced that decision Friday morning, after reporting Thursday night of a “very concerning spike” in COVID-19 cases among students in the previous 24 hours. In a social-media post, the college said Thursday that 31 coronavirus cases were reported within a 24-hour span, and that “clusters have been identified within athletics and in off-campus student housing.”
“As a result of a cluster of positive COVID-19 tests within our student-athlete population, we are indefinitely pausing all athletic-related activities,” UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said Friday in a statement issued through his department. “Effective immediately, we also will shift to weekly pool testing of all student athletes as we continue to work with university leadership and the Albany County Department of Health to isolate and quarantine all impacted students.”
Benson declined comment Friday beyond his released statement.
Appearing at a Friday press conference with Albany County officials, UAlbany President Havidan Rodriguez said that all students who had tested positive for the coronavirus had been quarantined and are being monitored.
UAlbany was originally scheduled to start offseason workouts on Aug. 31, but delayed that start a week because of concern over large off-campus gatherings discovered to have occurred during the final weekend of August. Instead, each of the school’s athletic programs started last Monday, with numerous safety-related precautions in place.
UAlbany’s athletes are slated to go through three phases as part of the athletic department’s resocialization plan, which largely mirrors the NCAA’s recommended plan. Among other measures meant to mitigate health risks in the first phase of the plan, UAlbany’s plan calls for athletes to wear face masks at all times, including during athletic activity; athletes and coaches must physically distance; and, groups of no more than 10 individuals are allowed to meet at one time.
UAlbany’s first shutdown lasted one week. There is no timetable for when UAlbany teams will next be allowed to work out.
“The health and safety of our student athletes, staff, campus and greater community remains our number one priority. It’s imperative that we all learn from this and follow the policies in place relative to COVID-19 to ensure that we are responsible community members,” Benson said in his statement issued through the school’s athletic department. “Our top priority today, tomorrow and for as long as necessary must be taking the appropriate steps to stop the spread of this virus. Until then, it is premature to talk about a timeline for a resumption of athletic activities or competition.”
Earlier this year, all sports contests for UAlbany fall teams were postponed until next spring. The school’s basketball teams are still expecting to play this year, but it’s likely the start date for Division I basketball games will be postponed approximately two weeks from its currently scheduled Nov. 10 start date.