One student-athlete from the Western Kentucky women’s soccer program tested positive for COVID-19 after recently displaying symptoms, the school announced in a news release Monday.

WKU says it is following the guidance of the local health department in regard to isolation, quarantine, contact tracing and in the case of athletics, the eventual return to physical activity and sport for positive cases.

The women’s soccer program had a regularly scheduled break from activity planned for later this week and extended that break to begin Monday as a precautionary measure.

This is the first student-athlete to test positive since the return to campus in June. WKU announced its first changes to the original COVID-19 athletic restart plan July 14 to include COVID-19 antibody testing for all student-athletes, coaches and staff making their first arrival to campus between July 4 and the beginning of the fall semester – a decision made with the second wave of athletes returning to campus July 6.

In WKU’s July 14 release announcing changes to testing protocol, it also announced there were six positives in the antibody testing – four from student-athletes and two from staff – out of the 293 antibody tests performed. Each person who returned a positive antibody test was given a follow-up PCR swab test, and one staff member returned active asymptomatic positive.

In a June 24 interview with the Daily News, WKU athletics director Todd Stewart anticipated positive tests during the school’s athletic restart and stressed the importance of following protocols in the athletics portion of the Big Red Restart Plan, which remains fluid as it is a living document.

“I don’t think it’s an if – it’s a when. There will be positive tests,” Stewart said in the interview. “Throughout the country that’s what we’re all dealing with, not just in athletics.

“ ... We will have positive tests here. For us to think that we can come back and get through the fall and play an entire season and never have a positive test is just not realistic. That’s just not the world we live in in 2020, but we have the ability when we have a test to isolate that person, to do contact tracing and to quickly determine the next steps with everybody that person may have been in contact with. It’s a very sophisticated plan, and we’ll put it into action when we need it.”

The first wave of student-athletes to return to campus – 65 football players – did so June 8. The second wave included the remainder of the football team, the women’s soccer team and the volleyball team. The men’s and women’s basketball teams returned July 9 and the cheerleading team was scheduled to return July 20. The remainder of teams are scheduled to return the following dates:

  • Aug. 14 – Men’s Golf
  • Aug. 17 – Women’s Golf
  • Aug. 18 – Cross Country
  • Aug. 22 – Track and Field
  • Aug. 22 – Softball
  • Aug. 22 – Baseball
  • Aug. 22 – Tennis

In a July 16 Zoom conference with reporters, Stewart remained optimistic there would be a fall sports season, even it didn’t look the same as seasons prior. In the Zoom conference, he said there were no set number of positive tests at that point that would force a shutdown of workouts, but the school would instead follow suggestions from medical professionals.

“Their health and their safety will always be the number one priority that we have,” Stewart said in the Zoom conference. “Hopefully we get to a point where we’re playing games, but we’ll have extensive testing that we’ll be doing on a consistent basis.”

Also on July 16, the NCAA handed down a new set of guidelines for returning to competition amid the pandemic. Included in the guidelines, the NCAA said athletes should receive a PCR swab test for all high contact risk sports within 72 hours of competition for football and within 72 hours of the first of the week’s set of games for other high contact risk sports. The NCAA also said “If PCR testing cannot be performed within 72 hours of competition, then the competition should be postponed or canceled, or an alternative plan for testing should be developed and agreed upon.”

Stewart said on the Zoom conference he was comfortable saying they would do what was required “and then some.”

“We won’t just do the minimum,” Stewart said in the conference. “We will take every precaution that we can in order to make sure that when our players are competing that they’re in a safe situation.”

WKU’s original athletic restart plan did not include testing for asymptomatic student-athletes, and only those with symptoms had a test performed, unless the student-athlete requested a test to be administered. WKU will continue to perform testing on any individual who shows or reports symptoms, as well as those who request testing.

WKU has put preventive measures in place to help student-athletes returning stay healthy. Masks are required and temperature checks are done on those entering athletic facilities. Equipment is cleaned after it is used, and numbers for workout groups are limited to 10 or fewer.{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.

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