Athletic activities allowed to resume after brief suspension

Megan Julian and Kristen Dansereau

After a brief three-day suspension, Vice President of Student Life John King gave permission for in-person athletic activities to resume on Oct. 20. Athletic Director Kiki Jacobs confirmed that King asked her to suspend all in-person athletic activities on Oct. 17, as a result of increasing positive COVID-19 test results within the RWU community.

Three varsity student athletes tested positive for the virus through campus testing last week. King said almost all of the university’s teams were engaged in some form of practices involving a significant number of student-athletes.

“I made the decision to temporarily suspend athletic activities due to multiple positive COVID cases within teams and a general increase in cases campus-wide over the past three weeks,” King said.

After reviewing COVID related athletic activity, training procedures and compliance measures, Jacobs and King decided athletic practices can resume.

“We did get permission to return to practice,” Jacobs said. “We plan to reaffirm the commitment to mask wearing and social distancing as much as possible and we are keeping with pods of 15 or fewer.”

When student-athletes initially heard about the suspension, they were upset.

“I was upset because I just had gotten cleared to practice and I was only able to participate for a week,” said sophomore Joseph Ortiz on the baseball team.

Other athletes were not surprised by the suspension, like sophomore Sophie Araneo on the women’s basketball team.

“I don’t think I was surprised about the suspension — so many new cases have been arising that I had a gut feeling that the suspension of sports would be inevitable,” Araneo said.

Other athletes were frustrated by the university’s initial choice to suspend activity.

“My initial reaction to the suspension was frustration,” said senior James Lee of the men’s soccer team. “This was mainly due to the lack of communication between the few deciding the fate of athletics and the athletes themselves. We were following all protocols put into place and they did not bother to send out an email to the athletes or a plan going forward.”

Lee said he was disappointed in the school’s lack of communication with the athletes when it comes to recent decisions. He said he found out about the suspension from the intramural sports site saying those sports were suspended before hearing a statement from the Athletic Department.

King had the final say on the return to practices:

“As a campus, we were starting to experience an uptick in general cases before the MNS cluster occurred and together with that group of cases occurring within a week, it was important to pause athletics, currently our most populated in-person group activity, for a few days and monitor both situations as well as our quarantine housing capacity,” King said.

This week, King said the testing results are more consistent with how they have looked throughout the semester. Taking that into account as well as the renewed emphasis on the COVID procedures for teams, Jacobs and King agreed they could re-engage with athletics.

Moving forward, King said they will be requesting all students stay on campus and in the local community on weekends and avoid going home or visiting family and friends in their own communities.

“We had several positive cases that were directly linked to students going home or interacting with family and friends on weekends during the first two weeks of October. With COVID beginning to rise again across the Northeast and the country, we will once again be urging students to stay local, not go home, stay in smaller stable groups and in support of the Governor – wear masks in almost every situation,” King said.