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University of Arizona: Rise in COVID-19 cases pauses return of athletes to campus
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Arizona athletics

University of Arizona: Rise in COVID-19 cases pauses return of athletes to campus

From the June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear series

Workouts are still planned for student-athletes already at UA, though that could change

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“I believe that we can come together, nationally, and pull some really good plans (to play spring football),” said UA AD Dave Heeke.

With COVID-19 cases surging in the state and Governor Doug Ducey ordering a shutdown, the University of Arizona has put its athletics reentry plan on pause.

On June 15, the UA began bringing football players back in waves to participate in voluntary on-campus workouts. Eighty-three student-athletes had returned to campus, and only one had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the school. But with cases still on the rise in Pima County and elsewhere, and the healthcare system becoming increasingly burdened, the UA has halted bringing additional student-athletes back to campus.

The next group - newcomers, including freshmen - was supposed to arrive on July 6 and begin working out July 13. For now, those plans are on hold.

UA officials are seeking clarification from Ducey's office to determine whether the closure of gyms applies to Arizona's weight rooms and facilities. To keep the workout "pods" to 10 people or less, the UA is utilizing Arizona Stadium, the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility weight room, Bear Down Field, the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center and the McKale Center weight room.

As of now, workouts are scheduled to resume Wednesday. (They have been running on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.) Guidance from the governor's office could halt the workouts or alter their structure.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have made this decision with campus and community partners to pause our reentry process,” UA athletic director Dave Heeke said in a statement Monday. “The health, safety and well-being of all members of our community is our No. 1 priority. We will continue to work in conjunction with campus partners and our local government agencies to support and evaluate a safe and healthy return to campus.”

Added Dr. Stephen Paul of C.A.T.S. Medical Services, who helped formulate the reentry plan: “Our mission has always been, first and foremost, the safety of our student-athletes, staff and community. Health and safety continue to be the guiding force in our reentry process.

“We will continue to monitor the status and impact of COVID-19 in our community and our ongoing and safe training of student-athletes already on campus. Arizona Athletics will assess when to resume its reentry process in collaboration with the guidelines and protocols of the University of Arizona, Pac-12 Conference, NCAA, and state and local government agencies.”

The UA said the one student-athlete who tested positive has entered the athletic department’s “protocol for positive tests.”

Ducey announced Monday that gyms, water parks, movie theaters and bars would be closed for at least 30 days. Arizona is scheduled to open the season Aug. 29 against Hawaii. The team would need at least a month of training camp to prepare for the campaign.

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