COVID-19 at UHH

Three student athletes test positive for COVID-19

Writer: Kasumi Collins, Editor-in-Chief

Three UH Hilo student athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, Athletics Director has confirmed.

Patrick Guillen said UH Hilo first became aware that two individuals tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 22, and then a third individual tested positive on Oct. 5. The state Department of Health visited the students at their off-campus house the day after news of their test results, to provide educational materials and to officially notify the students of their mandatory isolation. Guillen said UH Hilo reviewed where these students went on campus the week prior to their positive test results, and they sanitized those areas. He didn’t say exactly where those areas were, and he also noted that UH Hilo administrators neglected to do any contact tracing. They have reserved thethis task for the Department of Health.

Guillen would not confirm what Ke Kalahea learned through tips from multiple anonymous sources: The three students infected with COVID-19 are part of the men’s baseball team. He only briefly mentioned that they were a part of Athletics and said their team members, along with anyone else who came in contact with them, were immediately notified on the day of their positive tests.

All the athletes on the unspecified team were tested as a result of members of their team being infected, according to Guillen. At the recommendation of Premier Medical, Athletics arranged for serial testing, which involved PCR COVID-19 testing three more times over the next week for the entire team and those that may have come in contact with them. “This was to make sure that there was no spread and the rest of the team was negative, which they were,” Guillen said. He would not verify what multiple anonymous sources have speculated — that the athletes became infected after going to an off-campus house party. He did comment, however, that there is an ongoing investigation as part of the student discipline process.

UH Hilo Athletics has been taking action since May to create a COVID-19 working group and action team to address and implement safety guidelines from the NCAA, UH System, CDC and State and Local authorities, Guillen assured Ke Kalahea.

Throughout this summer and the start of fall semester, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies for the entire year were ordered as well as ‘kokua’ signage for all the buildings, facilities, walkways and offices, he stated. Additionally, sanitizing stations were placed in high-traffic areas and face masks, gaiters and any other additional sanitizing equipment were purchased for the facilities and offices, according to Guillen. The 176 student-athletes and coaches that arrived in-person to Hilo at the beginning of this 2020 fall semester took a PCR COVID-19 test on Sept. 20 through Premier Medical, with whom Athletics has partnered.

When athletes were tested, they were tested in smaller groups, and coaches/staff were responsible for overseeing student-athletes and their compliance with COVID-19 safety measures, Guillen said. In person practice and training began on Oct. 12 in small groups (less than 10), while practicing physical distancing and wearing masks, Guillen said. “We have not allowed practices until later as we wanted our student-athletes to get acclimated to not only the COVID-19 protocols but also the online learning,” he affirmed. The head athletic trainer has worked with the PacWest Conference in developing extensive COVID-19 Return to Campus and Sport Preparation protocols, which were implemented prior to the start of the semester. “These protocols include personal hygiene and physical distancing, practice protocols, testing strategies and safe transition to athletic activity plans,” Guillen said. “Coaches and staff are constantly communicating, educating and reminding our students of their responsibility to adhere to state and local laws, rules and guidelines,” the athletic director said. He pointed out that coaches meet virtually with their teams on a regular basis and continually remind them to maintain physical distancing and masking, practice personal hygiene always including washing and sanitizing hands and not engaging in any greeting or departing gestures that include physical touching. He also added that the head athletic trainer met with each of the UH Hilo teams virtually to review all of the protocols, guidelines and procedures. “He leads our sports medicine staff so it is also vital that our student-athletes are provided that information from him and our other athletic trainers to bring awareness and understanding,” Guillen said.

For a review of UH Hilo’s COVID-19 guidelines, visit https://hilo.hawaii.edu/covid19/guidelines/

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