The Gophers have returned to practice while on what appears to be the downslope of their COVID-19 outbreak.
The football team reported Thursday two new positive cases — both players — since the most recent update from this past Monday, for tests administered Monday through Wednesday. That brings the total number of cases since Nov. 19 to 49 players and staff.
With the downtick in new cases, the Gophers returned to light acclimatization workouts Wednesday and continued them Thursday. The team will remain in that ramp-up period until medical guidance clears them to restart full practices. All team meetings, however, will remain virtual throughout the rest of the season.
The goal is to return to a regular routine next week in preparation for the Dec. 12 game at Nebraska. That is the 2-3 Gophers’ final scheduled game before a to-be-determined Dec. 19 game, planned as a matchup with an East division opponent based on the standings.
The Gophers missed two games during the outbreak, this past Saturday’s rivalry game at Wisconsin and this upcoming Saturday’s game against West-leading Northwestern. In their most recent game Nov. 20 against Purdue, the Gophers missed 22 players, about half from injuries and half from positive COVID-19 tests, though some were from a couple weeks ago with players still sitting out 21 days for isolation, cardiac testing and general recovery, per Big Ten policy. Three staff members, including offensive line coach Brian Callahan, had also tested positive.
The football team first announced a temporary pause to team activities the evening of Nov. 23 before fully shuttering the next day with 15 positive cases from nine players and six staff members. The athletics department added another 10 — three players and six staff — on Nov. 25 and another 15 — eight players and seven staff — Nov. 28. This past Monday, the department announced seven more cases from one player and six staff members.
Of the Gophers’ 49 cases since Nov. 19, 23 have been players and 26 have been staff.
The athletics department as a whole also released their total testing update, as it does at the start of each month. Of 7,029 COVID-19 tests in November, there were 176 positive tests for athletes and staff of any sport. Since the department began testing in June, there have been 336 positive cases from 16,875 tests.
COVID-19 has forced the postponement or cancellation of more than 115 college football games across the country this season. In the Big Ten, Wisconsin and Maryland had to miss two games when earlier outbreaks peaked at 30 cases each. Ohio State missed this past weekend’s game but is attempting just a one-week layoff with an unclear number of cases. Michigan canceled its upcoming game also for an unspecified number of cases.