MISSOULA — The University of Montana reopened the Champions Center on Wednesday after it was shut down the previous four days as a precautionary measure because athletes were placed in quarantine and isolation due to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests in the community and on campus, Montana athletic director Kent Haslam told the Missoulian and 406mtsports.com.
Haslam said the athletes who are in quarantine and isolation are “in a variety of sports,” but he declined to say how many or specify which sports or whether any of those athletes have had a confirmed positive case because he “can’t comment on the medical status of any student-athletes.” He noted that people are put into quarantine or isolation because they had a positive test or were in close contact with someone who had a positive test.
The athletes in question are still in quarantine and isolation, Haslam said.
“This is a good example of why we’re not playing football or any fall sports,” he said. “This is why, because it’s so hard to manage the quarantines and isolation. That’s why we’re not playing. It sure would have been tough when dealing with something like this.”
He added: “We have the luxury of being able to hit pause and clean. ... We’re not preparing to compete, so hitting pause is not a bad thing.”
The Missoula City-County Health Department reported 24 new COVID-19 cases specific to the University of Montana on Wednesday after having just five positives since campus opened Aug. 12. Of the 24 new cases, 22 are still active, bumping up the number of total active cases to 25.
The temporary closure of the Champions Center allowed it to be cleaned more than it had been under the athletic department’s guidelines for reopening the facility June 1. The equipment room had also been closed Saturday and Sunday for extra cleaning because it’s another gathering place; it was reopened Monday.
“We’re a few months into our protocols and having our student-athletes back and a month into having campus open, so we’ve got to continue to be diligent and not slack off and clean this thoroughly,” Haslam said. “You can’t see the virus. All you can do is clean this very well. We’ve got good protocols in place and have to be diligent in following those.”
The men’s and women’s basketball teams were among squads that still practiced over that four-day stretch while the Champions Center was closed, he said. The football team has been limited by the NCAA to athletic activities, not practices that allow for contact between individuals.
Haslam said he feels the athletic department’s guidelines for using the Champions Center — which include health screenings, cleaning equipment and people spaced out — have been properly followed. This move allowed them to be extra careful before reopening Wednesday.
“We felt like it had been cleaned,” Haslam said of reopening the facility, “and we were told it was OK to reopen by county health and by the campus and felt like it had been mitigated and will continue with the same protocols in place.”
Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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