USC football coach Clay Helton started his Tuesday morning Zoom media session with some news that will have fans — and the Pac-12 Conference — on alert.
“We were informed last night that a single football player tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, Nov. 23. That individual had traveled with us to Utah to Saturday’s game, and he had tested negative three times within 36 hours of travel and again on game day. All test results on Monday were negative, and the individual was not present in the facilities or at practice on Sunday or Monday,” Helton said. “The individual is symptomatic and has been quarantined. USC Student Health, Utah athletics and the Pac-12 have been notified; the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will be notified today. When more information is available, including additional test results, contact tracing and public health guidance, we’ll provide it to you.”
The Athletic’s Antonio Morales later reported that USC did not practice Tuesday and moved everything remotely for the day.
Obviously, this is a concern for the Trojans as more than half the conference has lost a game or games already due to positive tests, contact tracing and the resulting protocols.
Utah, USC’s opponent last Saturday night, had its first two games wiped out by positive tests. Cal lost its first two games but recouped one with short-notice setup vs. UCLA. Arizona State did not get to play its opener or last weekend and remains up in the air this week. Washington State had to cancel its game Saturday as well as the upcoming Apple Cup game this week vs. Washington. The Huskies and Arizona also lost their openers due to other teams’ COVID situations. Stanford and Colorado also have lost a game.
To this point, USC, UCLA, Oregon and Oregon State are the only Pac-12 teams to play all three weeks.
Helton was asked how many players and coaches are impacted by the contact tracing and could be potentially out this week, as well as his general level of concern.
“We’re going to seek guidance. We lean on our medical professionals. This is not a coach decision. It’s based on the information that’s given, that’s provided by the individual that tested positive. They do their contact tracing study, and like I said, we’ll lean on their guidance and what they say. I really can’t give you any other information than what I know right now,” Helton said. “As soon as I get it, I know the university and athletic department will get it to you. That’s just where we are right now.”
Helton said the players received a similar message Monday night — just the facts that he had been given to that point — but he planned to address the team in a virtual meeting Tuesday afternoon.
“We’ll have a virtual meeting this afternoon where I’ll get to address them a little bit more. I’m so proud of them. I mean, we’ve been here since July 6, and I credit both, one, their discipline and their sacrifice that they have made, as well as thank the university and our leadership — athletic and university leadership — for the resources they’ve given us. I mean, from housing to the food, to protocols to how we travel, hotels, just everything is just so first-class and done the right way. And then we’re testing so many times, but it provides the most accurate and current information and is able to keep us as safe as possible. So thank the university leadership for what their doing and thank the kids for their sacrifice and their discipline that we’ve had over this extended period of time.”
Those sacrifices will continue this week, as Helton said players from local area will not have the opportunity to be with their families on Thanksgiving as the team will remain in its protocols.
“I salute our players — they’ve made several sacrifices to get to the point that we’re at, and we’re going to have to sacrifice again. We’ll be here on campus, just like we do every day,” he said. “For us, it’s a Thursday practice in preparation for the game. Obviously we’ll have a turkey dinner, but it will be individually packed up like we normally do. It’s not your normal sit-down style dinner. I wish we could meet together as a family right now and men could see their families, but in preparation for each and every game we have to follow the protocols that have kept us healthy and safe up to this point.”
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