WCIA — The Eastern Illinois football team took more than 450 COVID-19 tests in a four-week period upon returning to campus for voluntary workouts in July, resulting in eight positive results. The numbers were released on Wednesday, upon request from WCIA. The Panthers tested four times total in that time frame, with a positivity rate of less than 1.7 percent. The program also had three football players who tested positive before returning to campus and did not join the team for workouts until they were cleared.
The last time the football team tested for coronavirus was Aug. 8, resulting in one positive case. Contact tracing is part of EIU’s return to play protocol and was implemented with all positive tests, resulting in quarantining for several football players for various amounts of time, according to a release from EIU spokesperson Rich Moser.
“EIU has a professional person on campus that is a specialist in infectious diseases and has worked with EIU Athletics, the campus community and Coles County Health Department on any contact tracing that has needed to be done based on positive tests,” Moser said.
The Panthers practiced for several weeks before last Friday’s announcement from the Ohio Valley Conference, postponing all fall sports until the spring. Football teams can still play up to four non-conference games but the Panthers will not suit up this fall. After the news about no fall season, practiced was stopped and players were given the option to go home or remain on campus until school starts. Every student-athlete is required to test for COVID-19 on Aug. 26 and must test negative before practicing. No EIU athletic teams will practice during the first week of classes on campus with the earliest possible start date for any fall practices on Monday, Aug. 31.