The University of Wisconsin football team will decide if it will forgo its second game or play Purdue by Tuesday as the program’s COVID-19 cases reportedly climbed to 22.
After a phenomenal first game against Illinois, the Badgers immediately saw six COVID-19 cases, including starting quarterback Graham Mertz. More than a week after the first positive cases, Athletic Director Berry Alverez said on ESPN’s “College Gameday” on Saturday, Oct. 31 that the virus had spread to 10 staffers and 12 players. That’s up from the 16 total reported cases from two days earlier according to Jesse Temple.
“We’re still having additions in our cases, and that’s something we’ve got to get our arms around and control it,” Alvarez said.
This outbreak forced Alvarez and UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank to cancel the Nebraska game, and with potential for more positive tests coming, the Purdue game may be in jeopardy. Alvarez said on Saturday that he would make the decision on Tuesday.
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The soonest the Badgers could return to in-person activities would be Wednesday, Nov. 4 after a seven-day pause on face-to-face meetings. The 10 staff members and 12 players would have to remain quarantined. Players must sit out for a minimum of 21 days and undergo cardiac screening for myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, which is a symptom of COVID-19.
A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association challenges the need for that screening. The study found college athletes who tested positive for the virus showed little to no symptoms and had little evidence of myocarditis.
“I think several athletic directors have looked at that number [21 days] and thought it was a little high, but none of us are doctors, that’s not our decision to make,” Alvarez said. “That’s for our medical professionals to make.”
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Those who will continue to quarantine include Mertz and backup quarterback Chase Wolf. Assuming the Badgers suit up to play Purdue this weekend, Danny Vanden Boom would get the start with a short week of practice.
Head Coach Paul Chryst also tested positive last week. If he continues to be asymptomatic, he is eligible to return to in-person activities Thursday, Nov. 5.
If the Badgers cancel the game against Purdue, the team would need to play the rest of their games to qualify for the Big Ten Championship game. According to the Associated Press, teams must play six, or no more than two fewer games than the average of the rest of the conference, to qualify for the championship game.
Wisconsin and Nebraska are currently the only Big Ten teams to have missed a game. With no bye weeks in the eight-game season, there isn’t room to reschedule games before the Dec. 19 conference championship game.