SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame head football trainer Rob Hunt and head football coach Brian Kelly gave an update on where the Fighting Irish program stood as it tries to overcome a COVID-19 outbreak.
Here were the updated numbers from Hunt:
- 29 total players remain out for Notre Dame due to COVID-19. Of those 29, 18 are in isolation from a positive test and 11 are in quarantine via contact tracing.
- Nine players have been released from isolation or quarantine in the past two days. An additional 14 will be released by Saturday.
- There were zero new positive tests during testing on Monday and Wednesday.
- There have been no players hospitalized due to COVID-19. Players have shown mild to moderate symptoms
On Monday, Notre Dame announced that 39 athletes were either in isolation or through contact tracing because of the coronavirus. Despite the high number, the Fighting Irish resumed conditioning drills this week. They held their first official practice back on Thursday and will practice today as well before holding a scrimmage Sunday.
Notre Dame was already scheduled to be off this weekend, but they had last week’s game against Wake Forest postponed to Dec. 12 due to the outbreak. Their next scheduled game is Oct. 10 against Florida State in South Bend.
“It’s important that we’re extremely strategic in the way that we practice and when we practice,” Kelly said. “Getting the whole group back together is very, very important. … You can be assured that the timing of this is being calculated as to when we practice and how we practice because we have to be ready for Florida State.”
On Tuesday, Kelly told ESPN’s Heather Dinich that the outbreak was traced back to the team dinner the night before the South Florida game Sept. 18. Right before kickoff the next day, Notre Dame announced seven players on the depth chart were unavailable for the game. On Sept. 21, there were seven positive COVID-19 tests on the team, forcing the shutdown of the program for the time being to do more testing and contact tracing.
“It forced us to review all of our systems,” Hunt said Thursday. “I think we’ve done a thorough review of where that’s at … we have looked deeply into where we’re at and how did we get to where we were. We focused on the locker room, housing, meals and looked at our hotel operations.”
A player in isolation is different than in quarantine. If a player tests positive, they have to go into isolation for at least 10 days and aren’t allowed to do any physical activities. Once out of isolation, Hunt said, they put the player through a cardiac screening process to make sure there’s no long-term effects from the virus on the heart.
Once a player is cleared to return, they go through a process to get back into shape to play football. Players are limited to conditioning workouts initially before making their way back to on-field drills and practice.
Hunt admitted that the strict systems Notre Dame had been following all summer had become relaxed once the season started.
“I think we may have gotten a little loose in terms of how we operate within our locker room, in terms of our mask compliance, our spacing on the sidelines and the activities that are being done there,” Hunt said. “These are certainly speculative, but as we look at the clusters that we had and the position groups that they were and how we contact traced the spread, there were areas where we could get better. A negative test doesn’t mean you’re necessarily clear and free from the virus at that point.”
Kelly said the players have remained upbeat during the time off. After having to take a week off to contain the spread of the virus, Kelly said the team is ready to resume normal football activities.
“Attitude has been awesome,” Kelly said. “Our kids have been great. They were hit with something they didn’t expect, and we had gone for such a long period of time without any setbacks. They’ve handled this adversity quite well; the morale was high. Guys were excited about getting back out there in conditioning and they want to get back at it.”