Michigan athletes push back on shutdown after COVID-19 'super-spreader strain' found on campus

Ryan Young
·3-min read

Several Michigan athletes are speaking out on Monday against the school’s decision to suspend all athletic activities for 14 days after multiple athletes tested positive for a new “super-spreader strain” of COVID-19.

At least five athletes tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, and at least 15 more are presumed positive. The strain was reportedly introduced at the school by an athlete who is originally from the United Kingdom.

All members of the athletic department were ordered to quarantine up to Feb. 7. The decision to shut down was recommended by the Michigan Department of Human Health Services.

Michigan athletes push back against shutdown

Michigan senior wrestler Myles Amine shared a lengthy statement on Twitter on Monday morning from a “coalition of student-athletes” urging the school to rescind the shutdown order.

It’s not clear who or how many Wolverines athletes are in that “coalition.”

“While we, the student-athletes at the University of Michigan, understand the severity of this virus and take it very seriously, we believe that this mandate from the MDHHS is unnecessary and should not only be reconsidered, but overturned,” the statement read, in part.

The students argued that instead of shutting everything down, the athletic department should simply quarantine teams on a case-by-case basis.

“Based on the department’s testing policies, placing healthy students in quarantine is unnecessary and excessive,” the statement said, in part. “Placing the entirety of student-athletes in a mandated quarantine, instead of working it on a team by team basis, is unfair to the athletes who have followed all protocols necessary to compete and have had no contact with the confirmed cases. These student-athletes have gone above and beyond in order to earn the right to have a season in the midst of a pandemic.”

The B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus was first detected in the United Kingdom, and is believed to have emerged last September. It has since spread across the globe and is believed to be approximately 50 percent more transmissible than the standard form of the coronavirus. Some officials have even called it a “super-spreader strain.”

The variant had reached at least 24 states in the United States as of Monday night, per the CDC, and there are currently 13 new cases in Washtenaw County, according to the Detroit Free Press.

While it’s understandable that these athletes are frustrated with the decision, a widespread outbreak of the B.1.1.7 variant in the Ann Arbor area could quickly wreak havoc on the community and the rest of the state — more than the initial strain of the coronavirus already has.

By suspending all athletic activities, the athletic department and the state are clearly hoping that they can curtail any massive outbreak of the new strain before it begins. Whether that works, or they stick to that plan, remains to be seen.

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