USF football intensifies contact tracing, testing frequency after Florida Atlantic game postponed

USF football has adopted intensive contact tracing and testing procedures after Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic was postponed. Coach Jeff Scott on Thursday said the team is waiting on test results from Wednesday and that four more tests are scheduled before USF starts conference play Oct. 3 at Cincinnati. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

When deciding to postpone Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic (FAU), stricter contact tracing and COVID-19 protocols were used by USF and coach Jeff Scott, especially when two of its opponents — the one the Bulls had just played and the one it was scheduled to play — both had games postponed due to coronavirus.

Notre Dame postponed its game Saturday against Wake Forest and FAU has yet to play its season opener after its first four games were postponed.

Since USF has paused on-field activities and postponed Saturday’s game, the team has used careful contact tracing by rewatching video from the Notre Dame game to decide which players could potentially be compromised.

Going through the detailed and lengthy process of contact tracing is necessary to avoid bigger health-and-safety problems later on, Scott said in his weekly press conference via Zoom.

“The goal of quarantine and pausing your workouts and these type of things and postponing the game is to prevent a situation where all of a sudden you wake up, next Sunday and you’ve got 14 players that are positive and now you got to shut down for two or three weeks,” Scott said.

Combine that with having multiple players out in multiple position groups, and that’s the reason the game was ultimately postponed, Scott said.

“We had multiple players this week that had to be withheld at certain position groups,” he said. “That, I think also played into the decision that our medical staff and medical experts ultimately got to.”

From a review of the game video, an undisclosed number of players are being held out due to contact tracing, Scott said.

Scott disclosed that the results from Wednesday’s round of testing still haven’t come in yet. He also said that some players were tested Thursday and the whole team will be tested again Friday.

Scott did not share how many positive tests there were among the team currently, but he said there are still players unavailable from weeks past. Before each game, a list of unavailable players is sent to the media, but the list does not specify why players are out.

“I think it’s also important for everybody to realize that this is not just from the guys that we lost this week due to the contact tracing and/or testing,” he said. “This is a cumulative process … we still have multiple players … that are still out.”

Scott said he didn’t think having to postpone a game was “definitely going to happen,” but he knew it was a possibility and wanted to be prepared for what to do if it did happen.

“I had the thought of how can we do everything within our control to try to prevent having the game be postponed, but at the same time, you also, in the back of your mind, have to start thinking through plans of when it does happen … ‘how are we going to respond and how are we going to make plans to take care of our players,’ … It’s difficult. There’s no doubt about it.”

The clash between Scott and FAU with former USF coach Willie Taggart is off the books for now, so attention has turned toward Cincinnati on Oct. 3.

Being ready if the green light is given is the goal now, but there are no guarantees with coronavirus, especially with the challenges presented by the incubation period, Scott said.

“I thought I had the answer to this whole COVID deal about a month ago, went and met with our doctors and said … ‘We got USF Health in our backyard, we can raise a little bit of money, what if we test our guys every single day?’ Then we can eliminate contact tracing, right? Because … you’re testing everybody the next day you would know,” Scott said. “I was so excited, proud of myself I thought I had the answer, and then he educated me a little bit about this incubation period that sometimes someone could be exposed, but it might not show up until the fourth day, the fifth day or the sixth day.”

The effects of the incubation period could spill over into the game against Cincinnati. Between now and then, there are at least four major hurdles to get over, Scott said.

“As far as Cincinnati, even though that’s nine days from now it seems like it’s three weeks from now,” he said. “So we’ve got a test Friday, a test Monday, a test Wednesday, a test Friday, so that’s how I judge my game weeks is how many tests do we have left.

“We have four tests left before we get to Cincinnati.”