UNT testing update

The North Texas athletic department has had three members of its staff and four student-athletes test positive for an active COVID-19 infection, a school official confirmed Tuesday.

Three more University of North Texas student-athletes tested positive for active COVID-19 infections during a round of testing conducted by the school last week.

The three new cases push the total number of infections in the UNT athletic department to seven. Four student-athletes and three members of the school’s staff have tested positive. The university acknowledged last week that three staff members and one student-athlete had tested positive.

Three members of UNT’s football team tested positive for coronavirus antibodies following the first round of testing earlier this month. Antibody tests indicate that a person has recovered from an infection or been exposed to the virus.

UNT has not publicly released its testing figures. A school official provided them to the Denton Record-Chronicle on Tuesday afternoon.

The university changed its policies on testing student-athletes for COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago as cases were spiking around the state and in Denton Country.

UNT’s original policy was to test student-athletes for COVID-19 antibodies upon their return to campus. Athletes who tested positive for antibodies or showed signs of a COVID-19 infection received a nasal swab test that detects active infections.

UNT gave each member of its staff swab tests upon their return to campus. The school is now administering swab tests to each member of its staff and all student-athletes.

The school administered 104 swab tests last week after changing its policy. UNT tested athletes who arrived on campus before the policy change in addition to athletes who just reported to campus.

UNT has now conducted 191 swab tests and 78 antibody tests since implementing its return-to-campus plan in the first week of June. UNT has tested its staff, members of the football team and a few members of the women’s basketball team, a school official said.

UNT shut down its campus in March. Schools across the country shuttered their athletic programs at the same time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNT officials formulated a plan to safely bring its athletic department staff and players back to campus during the shutdown. The plan is based largely on testing and social distancing.

The university approved the plan that was designed to gradually bring the school’s football team back to campus to participate in a summer conditioning program.

UNT’s coaches and staff reported June 3. Three waves of about 30 players returned to campus on June 8, June 15 and June 22. The remainder of UNT’s football players are expected to arrive on July 13, and UNT’s other teams are expected to return to campus in July.

Players and staff members who test positive for COVID-19 are immediately isolated to prevent an infection from spreading.

Testing is one facet of the school’s return-to-campus plan. UNT officials require each person who enters any athletic department facility to go through a check-in procedure, which includes a temperature check and health questions. Each person who completes the process receives a colored wristband when they complete the check-in. Wristband colors change daily to ensure that everyone participating in team activities has completed the process.

UNT has also instituted social distancing measures in an effort to prevent infections from spreading.

The school has split its football players into small groups and set up four locker rooms and three weight rooms. Each group is assigned to one locker room and one weight room to minimize contact between players.

“You can’t completely eliminate risk, but we feel like we have put enough measures in place to provide a safe environment,” Jared Mosley, UNT’s associate vice president for athletics, said before the school began bringing athletes back to campus. Mosley played a key role in formulating UNT’s plans to reopen its facilities.

The spread of COVID-19 caused the NCAA to call off its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments as well as its spring sports season. Some schools have now been forced to shut down their offseason football programs.

The University of Houston shuttered its program on June 12 after six players tested positive.

The University of Arizona paused its plan to return athletes to campus on Monday due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas suspended on-campus workouts on Friday after four athletes tested positive for the coronavirus.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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