CONWAY — With the university’s first home football game just hours away and nearly 5,000 fans expected, Coastal Carolina announced 79 new positive COVID-19 cases on campus Friday morning, while also reporting three new employee cases.
According to the school’s public COVID-19 dashboard, there are currently 81 students in isolation, while an additional 150 are under quarantine.
The weekly averages for residential students in quarantine continued to rise sharply, going from 139 to 183 over the past seven days, while the average for isolation went from 82 to 101.
The university is reporting the data through Sept. 16, utilizing each Thursday to validate data before releasing to the public.
According to Martha Hunn, CCU’s associate vice president and chief communication officer, the 24 hours are used to allow the Office of Emergency Management, Student Health Services, the Dean of Students Office, Department of Athletics and the Office of Human Resources to validate the data.
Once these departments sign off on the data, it is delivered to the Emergency Management Executive Team.
“Once verified, numbers are not revised,” Hunn said.
The CCU football team, coming off a big road win in Kansas, received good news on Wednesday afternoon that none of its traveling party that made the trip to Lawrence had tested positive for the coronavirus after a Tuesday test, according to Hunn.
The Chants played the Jayhawks despite the Kansas Department of Health and Environment labeling the Kansas football team as a “COVID cluster,” reporting three players having active positive cases, while the team had 14 over a 28-day period.
According to CCU athletic director Matt Hogue, the team flew a charter plane to Lawrence, stayed secluded in a hotel, traveled to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for the game and left for Conway directly after the game.
Hogue said that both teams followed the protocols set forth by the NCAA, as well as the Big 12 and Sun Belt conferences.
“I mean certainly we always communicate with our opponents and there’s certifications that have to be traded about testing, and certainly they went through the same testing protocols we did,” Hogue said. “So the goal of testing is to be able to know who is a positive, how you have to manage your contact tracing and then once you’re playing the game, the goal is that if there were positives reported, those individuals would not be a part of the game.”
Once the team returned to Conway, there was no special quarantine for the team, according to Hogue. Pointing to the weekly testing that the team already goes through in order to play its upcoming game, Hogue said that those that may be asymptomatic would be caught in that process.
Hogue did indicate that players did return to on-campus residence halls, “just like they normally do.”
While a considerable amount of students are taking fall instruction online, the football team is not required to do so, with some players utilizing the “hybrid” model that allows for both online and brick-and-mortar education.
Hogue could not point to an exact number of players that are attending classes in person, while also indicating that players receive meals just like anyone else on campus.
There are still team meals, according to Hogue.
“You’re going to have some team meals that the team may decide to organize and have it delivered so they can eat maybe as a team or something along those lines; pregame meals, things like that would have to be organized in such a manner,” Hogue said.
Friday night’s home opener against Campbell will give CCU a second consecutive week in the national spotlight, with the 7:30 p.m. game being broadcast on ESPN.
On FS1 this past week, the cameras panned to defensive coordinator Chad Staggs often due to the Chants’ defense picking up three turnovers early in the game, setting the tone in CCU’s second win over a Power 5 team in school history.
Staggs was shown without a mask on throughout the game, something that Hogue says was addressed team-wide.
“We always address following protocols. I think everyone is trying to get accustomed to the new routines. I think if you watched a lot of games around the country, we all certainly can improve and do better at everything we have to do, particularly when it comes to the sidelines,” Hogue said.
“We talk about those things all the time. We have not just with football, but we have meetings with our coaches and remind them, send out weekly reminders via email that codifies and consolidates everything that the protocols look for.”
The university continues to offer COVID-19 testing via Student Health Services for those that are symptomatic, according to Hunn.
When a test is done by SHS, the results are delivered back to both the university and to the student. These results are accounted for in the school’s public-facing dashboard.
If a student receives a test off-campus, the university has asked them to self-report if they are positive, but that process is built on the honor system.
Employees and affiliates of the university are required to report positive cases to the Office of Human Resources.