GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The Florida Gators' game against the LSU Tigers scheduled for Saturday has been postponed. It is now set for Dec. 12.
UF athletic director Scott Stricklin confirmed WCJB’s report on the postponement during his press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ve reached a point where we don’t think it’s appropriate that we try to play the game this weekend,” Stricklin said.
The decision comes a day after reports that 19 Florida football players tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. According to Stricklin, that number grew after their round of testing on Wednesday.
“Among our scholarship players, we have 18 current positives. We have another three walk-ons, who are positive. So, total of 21 current team members,” said Stricklin. “And when you add in those who are quarantined through contact tracing, as a result of those positives, in addition to a handful of players who are on the non-COVID injury list, it gives the Gators less than 50 scholarship players available currently.”
The Florida athletic director says those individuals, which includes two assistant coaches, are either asymptomatic or are only experiencing mild symptoms.
Stricklin received word of a potential spike in COVID-19 cases when in a call from the team trainer, Paul Silvestri, on Monday morning.
Silvestri told Stricklin that a number of players called him on Sunday night reporting symptoms like headaches, fatigue and scratchy throats. This was before the results from Sunday tests were in. UF called off a Monday morning team meeting and retested players that day. This is when the positive results started to roll in.
The program has yet to pinpoint the origins of the outbreak; however, they do have a theory that it is connected to their travel last weekend.
“There’s suspicion that the trip this past weekend to College Station probably was at the root of it,” Stricklin said. “From talking to our sports health staff, a couple of our athletes who have tested positive since coming back from that trip subsequently reported that late last week they had what they thought were allergy type symptoms. One of them was congested, one of them had a headache and they did not report those symptoms as we have an expectation they do so because they didn’t think it was anything other than seasonal type cold that we experience through allergies or whatever. There’s a suspicion that maybe that is what helped make this an event that had this kind of spread.”
Florida is now considering reviewing the travel situation a little closer to prevent any further outbreaks and will now hold daily testing until they can get a handle on the outbreak.
“Those athletes and staff who are not in quarantine will continue with the regular testing program, so we can kind of make sure we have a handle on this before we decide next steps.”
UF is pausing all football activities indefinitely and has sent the coaching staff home. Stricklin had no answers if this outbreak would also affect Florida’s matchup against Missouri next week.
According to CDC guidelines, a person infected has to be quarantined for 10 days, while a person exposed to a person who tested positive will need to be in quarantine for 14 days.
“We’ll be in communication with the Southeastern Conference,” he said. “We’ll continue, as I said, our regular testing protocol for those who aren’t in quarantine, and hopefully, we don’t have any more positives and we’re able to get on the other side of this and then we can get everyone back in a situation where you can go compete again.”