Big Questions About 5 Michigan Student-Athletes with New British Covid Variant – And What Players Should Do

The State of Michigan CDC just recommended a shut down all of University of Michigan athletics for two weeks.

I’ve previously taken no position, going back as far as last summer, as to whether college sports ought to be shut down for good, because of Covid.

My thoughts are changing, based upon news that five University of Michigan athletes now have the British variant of Covid. That variant, 50-70% more infectious than other forms, was clearly and internationally identified by December 14. Some experts estimate that the British variant is also 30% more symptomatic. Based on these facts, all estimations of risk, and health protocols associated with those estimations, needed to be updated.

The move raises epidemiological questions, but also personal health questions for players. It also raises issues about UM and B10 satisfaction of their duty to aggressively protect the health of their players:

  1. Why did it take an external body – the state CDC — to shut down UM athletic operations? How long had UM AD Warde Manual known about the prevalence of the 5 new British variant cases?
  2. Why did UM AD Manual (or the B10) not shut it down before the state stepped in?
  3. What UM athletic department or B10 protocols were in place to prevent the arrival of the British variant?
  4. What UM or B10 rules were in place to mandate action, upon discovery of the British variant?
  5. What steps are now being taken, by UM and B10, to determine how the presence of the British variant will affect relations and scheduling with other B10 schools?
  6. What information and communications are now being given to other B10 schools — and players at other schools?
  7. What sport was the recently-returned-from-UK student-athlete engaged in?
  8. It is also reasonable to ask how the student-athlete, recently returned from the UK, was allowed near athletics operations.

These are simple, rational risk-analysis questions, because the British Variant significantly increases the health risk.

And, though I admit to having only bare-boned information, the disturbing first-blush conclusion is the UM and B10 “sat-on” their duty to keep the British Variant away, and then sat-on their duty to shut-down operations. (New, thorough information, concerning information suggested in the above 8 points, might prove those preliminary conclusions wrong.)

What every Big Ten athlete needs to do:

  1. Keep a Daily Covid Log: keep detailed daily notes of your own, concerning everything the school tells you about the Covid risk, and any information about the presence or prevalence of Covid in any of your athletic activities.
  2. Know That the Risk is Greater Now: recognize that the arrival of the British Covid variant should significantly change your own personal risk evaluation. Assume that Covid is now, in Big Ten sports, much more communicable.
  3. Ask Questions, about everything
  4. Be Aggressive About Getting Top-Notch Health Care: Insist that the school provide you with the best, and repeated health care.
  5. Mobilize your Student-Athlete Advisory Committee: these are issues which require discussion amongst, and input from, the players whose Covid risks have just significantly increased.

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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