Wednesday, LA County Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer said, in her daily briefing that the UCLA football program has eight positive tests. The question is how did she know and why did she decide to divulge that?
“No Student-Athletes In Isolation”
Since UCLA shut down all athletics in April, the school formed a policy that all COVID-19 testing information would go through the school. None would filter through the athletic department. That included any information on athletes. All athletes who tested positive would have their numbers included in the general “UCLA Community.” That “community” includes staff, students, medical center employees, and other any campus personnel.
So how did Dr. Ferrer “out” the UCLA football players? In her daily briefing, she said “In terms of the football players at UCLA, we know there are at least eight players confirmed positive.” The reference was part of a recap of schools within the county. “I know that so many students, teachers and staff are eager to return to their campuses, but it simply won’t be possible to return to collegiate life as we knew it before. Dorms, classrooms and social life that is offered by our colleges and universities create high-risk activities and become high-risk settings for the spread of COVID-19. We already started seeing hotspots at a local college.”
Dr. Ferrer discussed the already-reported 45 positive cases that came up at USC’s fraternity row. She eventually shifted the report to UCLA specifically. “At UCLA, we’ve seen a number of football players who returned to campus and tested positive. Given that this virus has reached every single part of the country and will be an un-welcomed visitor hitching a ride with students as they return to our campuses, we need to be very vigilant in how we reopen.” When asked for clarification on UCLA, she responded that there are eight positive tests for football players.
What was lacking was context. How did she know they were football players if UCLA does not report them as football players? Why did she feel the need to specify that when the school policy is the exact opposite? And here is the real kicker. Just how outdated was her information?
It matters because UCLA athletics responded with a statement that finished, “UCLA Athletics currently has no student-athletes in isolation.”
That would mean that any football players who had tested positive had already cleared the 14-day isolation period and were no longer infected. From UCLA’s prepared statement to Last Word on College Football; “As previously outlined, the protocol in our Return to Training Plan requires that all student-athletes be tested for COVID-19 and antibodies upon their return to campus. Those who travel back to campus by plane are required to self-quarantine for a period of seven days before reporting to athletic facilities for medical screening, while those who travel by personal vehicle are not required to quarantine prior to testing. Anyone who was to test positive for COVID-19 would immediately go into isolation for 10 days from the date of the test. Anyone deemed to have been in close contact with someone who tested positive would go into isolation for 14 days from the last date of contact.”
The school also said, in its statement, “Any positive COVID-19 test results within the UCLA Athletics population would be reported as part of the daily campus updates, which can be found here (please note: the number of positive cases listed is a cumulative total since March). There is no separate reporting for Athletics.”
Last Word reached out to Dr. Ferrer’s office for a response. We provided them a list of questions regarding the purpose of specifying football players when the school does not; how did Dr. Ferrer know they were football players if the school did not disclose them as such. if the school says there are no athletes in isolation, how dated are the test results you discussed? If the positive tests are in the past, what is the point in a county official bring them up now? We requested either an interview with Dr. Ferrer, or answers to our written questions. We were told our request was being “processed.” It has been 17 hours, with no answers to our specific questions. If the county responds, we will update the story accordingly.
The college football world is spinning at hyper speed every day. We have learned that context is more important than pretty much anything. Some of the reports following Dr. Ferrer’s briefing, and perhaps her briefing itself, missed the context portion of the moment.