Defending national champion LSU is one of several FBS football programs to be affected by COVID-19 since players were allowed to return to campus for workouts. The Tigers' athletic department blamed its cases on interactions outside the team's facility rather than players training together.
SI.com reported Saturday that at least 30 of the Tigers' 115 players have been in quarantine over the past week after testing positive or being in contact with people who contracted the virus. Some of the cases were traced to players' visits to Tigerland, an area of bars and restaurants in Baton Rouge that was the source of a recent COVID-19 outbreak. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate reported Saturday that the spread started with a gathering of friends.
"When you do contact tracing and get some honesty from kids, it’s very easy to see where it came from and what happened," Shelly Mullenix, LSU senior associate athletic trainer, told SI. "I can talk to them about wearing a mask, but if your mask is under your nose, you’re not wearing a mask."
The exact number of positive tests on the team is not known. SI and The Advocate reported that no one in the program has required hospitalization and symptoms have been, at most, mild. Other players who visited Tigerland tested negative Friday, SI reported.
SI described LSU's safety protocols inside its football facility as "intense." They include separate entrances for players and coaches, daily temperature scans and a "lengthy" questionnaire that players must fill out each day. Likewise, the school has been aggressive in ordering quarantines.
"I'm protecting Baton Rouge from getting a higher viral load. That’s my obligation," Mullenix told SI. "The quarantine, while frustrating, prevents community spread."
LSU has joined Clemson, the team it defeated in last season's College Football Playoff championship game, and the other schools that are dealing with player outbreaks since teams were allowed to return to campus this month.
Clemson announced last week that 28 people in the athletic department, including 23 football players, tested positive. Kansas State suspended workouts after 14 players tested positive. Texas reported 13 positive tests. Alabama reportedly has had eight players test positive.