Cal football COVID-19 outbreak shows campus protocols are inadequate

CAMPUS AFFAIRS: The outbreak, and the team’s response to it, show a clear lack of consideration for the rest of the campus and Berkeley community.

Illustration of a hand grabbing a COVID particle from a shelf of helmets
Amanda Tsang/Staff

Related Posts

In a response to a major COVID-19 outbreak in the Cal football program, head football coach Justin Wilcox said by “thinking positive, good things are gonna happen.” Thinking positively will not prevent this outbreak, and potential future ones, from infecting other students and staff — including those who are immunocompromised. UC Berkeley was the first college to postpone a major college football game due to COVID-19 — campus’ approach of not requiring students to be regularly tested is not working. Moreover, the response and lack of responsibility taken by coaches, players and other leaders affiliated with the team is abhorrent.

UC Berkeley postponed its football game against USC on Nov. 9 after 24 football players tested positive for COVID-19, as well as an additional 20 people in the Cal football program. According to campus spokespeople and Wilcox, the team had been following health guidelines. According to the Berkeley Public Health Department, however, the program regularly failed to abide by public health measures, including testing, staying home when sick and wearing masks indoors.

It should not be the city’s responsibility to ensure students are regularly tested nor should the city have to bear the consequences of campus’ failure to do so. Cal football is not an isolated group — their actions, or lack of action, affect everyone on campus and in the larger city.

Despite campus claiming that 99% of the team has been fully vaccinated, a nearly 25% positive case rate within the program is alarming. The rate of breakthrough positive COVID-19 cases should be much lower.

In a recent tweet, Cal football quarterback Chase Garbers, one of Cal’s most promoted and recognizable players, posted that the team “worked too hard to have someone take this all away from us, it is wrong.” As the team’s quarterback and captain, Garbers should have taken the opportunity to apologize for putting other campus community members at risk and promised to take additional precautions. Instead, he argued the team shouldn’t have been tested.

Some students have also claimed to have seen football players who had tested positive on campus and other public locations, despite city of Berkeley health guidelines mandating that they quarantine for at least 10 days.

While there is no mandate, Cal football has the strictest testing guidelines among the Pac-12. Colleges across the country must increase mandatory testing, especially since football teams travel between schools.

While campus is prepared to enhance pandemic protocols for the rest of the football season in response to the outbreak, including regular testing and socially distanced workouts, the damage has already been done. Current practices have been proven to be inadequate and campus must institutionalize mandated regular testing for everyone on campus next semester.

As Thanksgiving break and finals approach, students shouldn’t have to face added stress and risk of contracting COVID-19. The alleged refusal to adhere to public health protocols shows a clear lack of regard for other students and community members by football players and Cal Athletics.

TAGLINE: Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2021 opinion editor, Emily Hom.