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Wisconsin athletics: UW athletes are back on campus

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Today, Monday June 8th, is the start of a phased approach to get Badgers athletes back on campus.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers football and volleyball teams are officially allowed to be back on campus as of Monday, June 8th for “for initial health assessments and COVID-19 testing” in preparation for Monday, June 15th when “the start of strength and conditioning activities” will happen.

It has been about three months since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down college campuses all across the country and now the UW Athletic Department is slowly and cautiously starting to reopen the campus for some athletes.

“We have been working for several weeks on a carefully-constructed plan to begin welcoming our student-athletes and selected staff members back to campus,” UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said in a press release sent out on Monday. “We’re very happy to be able to take this step forward, but very cognizant of the need to take great care that our people remain safe. I want to thank our staff, the medical professionals we have worked with and our campus leadership for their efforts in helping us.”

As far as other sports, beyond football and volleyball, there is no set timetable for their return as an answer in the FAQ sections states: “The men’s and women’s basketball teams will return later this month followed by the men’s and women’s hockey teams. Provided all goes well, additional student-athletes will have the opportunity to come back for voluntary workouts as well, as the summer progresses.”

Here is the full press release as well as a couple of the more pertinent FAQs:

MADISON, Wis. – A limited number of University of Wisconsin student-athletes will be allowed, under a phased approach, to return to campus for voluntary athletics activities beginning on June 8, approximately three months after the COVID-19 pandemic halted college athletics activities across the country.

UW Athletics’ plan includes the voluntary return of the Badger football and volleyball teams for initial health assessments and COVID-19 testing the week of June 8, followed by the start of strength and conditioning activities on June 15. Additional student-athletes will be brought back, as well, as the summer progresses.

“We have been working for several weeks on a carefully-constructed plan to begin welcoming our student-athletes and selected staff members back to campus,” UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said. “We’re very happy to be able to take this step forward, but very cognizant of the need to take great care that our people remain safe. I want to thank our staff, the medical professionals we have worked with and our campus leadership for their efforts in helping us.”

All strength and conditioning activities will take place in the Forward Center weight room inside Camp Randall Stadium and the weight room on the lower level of the McClain Center. No other UW Athletics facilities will be open at this point, including the Kohl Center, LaBahn Arena or the Student-Athlete Performance Center (SAPC). A limited number of staff and student-athletes will be allowed into weight rooms at any given time. Strength and conditioning activities will be altered to mitigate risk as much as possible (each station will have sanitation supplies; strength workouts will be conducted on spaced-out weight racks used only by one individual per session; conditioning sessions will take place outdoors unless inclement weather dictates otherwise).

A detailed plan of health-related processes and procedures will be in place to mitigate the risk of illness for student-athletes and staff. A member of the UW Sports Medicine staff will conduct an educational presentation with each team to ensure they know what to expect when they arrive at Camp Randall Stadium. Prior to arrival, all student-athletes will complete health information forms, schedule a health assessment (physical exam) and each will undergo PCR testing (nasal swab) for the COVID-19 virus. Student-athletes will be tested once initially and then again if/when they report symptoms or are believed to have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Student-athletes will be screened daily before entering UW Athletics facilities. Masks will be worn by student-athletes and staff members at all times other than during conditioning activities.

Individuals with suspected COVID-19 symptoms will be instructed to self-isolate while awaiting test results. Local health officials would be contacted regarding tracing procedures and UW Athletics facilities staff would further sanitize areas where suspected individuals had been. UW Athletics would determine the best location for the individual testing positive to self-isolate and coordinate follow-up medical monitoring and care as indicated.

What activities are permissible?

The first phase of the student-athletes’ return includes only voluntary strength and conditioning activities.

What about team or position specific meetings?

Group meetings with coaches will continue to be held virtually.

Will staff and student-athletes need to wear any Personal Protective Equipment?

Student-athletes will be provided a reusable mask that must be worn upon arrival to the athletic facility. The mask must be worn at all times unless physical activity is being performed. Staff will wear masks in all common spaces when in the athletic facilities.

What precautions are being taken in the facilities?

To provide the safest environment possible for student-athletes and staff UW Athletics is currently in the process of installing Global Plasma Solutions bi-polar ionization units to air handling units in its facilities. The unique feature of the system is that the ionization makes its way down into the occupied space and kills viruses, bacteria, and mold in the occupied space and on hard surfaces.

In the weight rooms, each student-athlete will have a dedicated area/rack in which to complete their workout. Once their workout is complete, they will be responsible for wiping down the equipment they used with a personal sanitization kit they will be provided.

How are the workouts being administered?

Student-athletes will undergo a daily health screening that includes a temperature check and assessment for COVID-19 symptoms and compliance with social distancing behaviors.

Weight room workouts will be capped at 10 student-athletes per group. The Camp Randall Stadium weight room is large enough to accommodate two 10-person groups at the same time. The two groups using the Camp Randall Stadium Weight Room will have separate entrance/exit locations.

One strength coach will be assigned to each group and monitor the workout from a central location in the weight room, maintaining a distance of at least six feet from all student-athletes. Spotting will be employed only if absolutely necessary.

How will meals and nutrition be handled?

There will be no on site meal preparation. Student-athletes can pick up bulk snacks that they can order through their app and pre- and post-workout nutrition will be available. Athletics will provide meal money to those students who participate in organized team activities as is consistent with prior years.