Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard spoke on the Murph and Andy Show on the radio station 1460 KXnO Wednesday afternoon about the COVID-19 cases within the athletic department.
Pollard began the interview stating he was not surprised by this and Iowa State isn’t the only school experiencing this.
“It’s not a surprise, there will be more I’m sure and we’re not the only ones, it's the reality of the world we live in,” Pollard said. “We’ve decided as a society that we are all not going to live in caves, but rather deal with this virus. Our department is very thorough and deliberate about our protocols; we’ve been more cautious than our peers around the country with everybody's rush to want to come back. The processes that our staff led by our Director of Sports Medicine Mark Coberley have put in place have worked."
On Wednesday morning, the athletic department reported that one of their student workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and there are four athletes from two different sports who have experienced symptoms of COVID-19 and are self-quarantining and waiting for test results.
“The first incident was a part-time student that works in our department that notified us over the weekend that they had tested positive (for coronavirus),” Pollard said. “So they didn’t come into work and we immediately notified the full-time staff member that works closest with the student that somebody that they (the staff member) had been working with had tested positive. That staff member that was quarantined did not test positive and nor did his family.”
The four athletes had come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
“Two of them took a trip out of state with the father of one of the other athletes, the father has unfortunately fallen ill and is in the hospital and both student-athletes are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, are quarantined and waiting for test results,” Pollard said.
One of the other athletes that has experienced symptoms had taken part in Iowa State’s “rehab data process” and had been affiliated with someone (not a student-athlete) who had admittedly tested positive off campus, according to Pollard.
“He (the athlete experiencing symptoms) let us know that he wasn’t feeling well and didn’t come down to our facility for rehab,” Pollard said.
The fourth student-athlete that has been experiencing symptoms lived with an individual (not a student-athlete) who tested positive for COVID-19.
Pollard said in Wednesday's interview that the student-athletes did what was expected of them.
“In both cases, the student-athletes did exactly what we’d want them to do, be very attune to their symptoms, to let us know, then to allow us to help them but also to keep them isolated from our staff and student-athletes,” Pollard said. “The protocols are working, but this is a reminder that the virus is out there, people are going to get it and how you deal with it once you get it is important.”
Pollard emphasized that the student-athletes and workers need to be self-aware of how they are feeling, to keep themselves healthy and, if they do have symptoms, to not risk the health of others.
“We’re only going to be with them for 5 percent of the day probably, so what are they doing for the other 95 percent? We have to educate them about that,” Pollard said. “They can’t leave here just cause it's summer and go to a backyard with 30 people because you’re going to put everybody at risk.”
Pollard stated his main concern was with “creating a safe environment that gives people the ability to live and thrive in a safe and measured way” for the student-athletes, staff members and their families.
“I’m not starting with we’re playing football; the lens is the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes,” Pollard said.
Iowa State is not the only university to have a staff member or student-athlete test positive for COVID-19 or experience symptoms.
Oklahoma State linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga tweeted on Monday he had tested positive for coronavirus after attending a protest in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Marshall University also announced on Monday two student-athletes and one staff tested positive for COVID-19.
The Iowa State football team is set to come back to campus on June 15 and Pollard said they plan to test them, and the rest of teams, before they can work out.
Former Kansas State men's basketball head coach and current South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 on May 8.
“If you’ve educated them well, hopefully, they don’t even come in if they are symptomatic, but they could be asymptomatic and not know they have it, so by testing them before you put them in with the other athletes, you can eliminate some of the problems,” Pollard said. “Then hopefully, the other mitigations that you put in place once they begin to work out (like putting them in small groups) will also help further mitigate.”
Pollard said they will be transparent with everyone regarding COVID-19’s effect on the athletic program.
At the end of the interview, Pollard also spoke about the George Floyd case, which has caused outrage and protests around the world.
“We all need to improve, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but part of figuring out the answers is doing a lot of listening,” Pollard said. “We’ve got a long road ahead for us, but I know we’re up for it.”