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CU Buffs cleared to begin football practice

Boulder County Public Health approves health plan submitted by CU athletic department

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado”s Maurice Bell, middle, runs tough after a catch during Saturday”s spring game.
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The Colorado football team will start practice on Friday after receiving clearance from Boulder County Public Health on Thursday.

CU was required to submit a plan detailing how it would try to control the spread the coronavirus within its department. Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) executive director Jeff Zayach said Wednesday he had received the plan, and it was approved on Thursday afternoon.

“From our perspective, our medical director and Jeff are happy with the plan and have approved it,” BCPH spokesperson Chana Goussetis said to Buffzone in an email.

BCPH issued an order on Sept. 24 halting gatherings of 18-to-22-year-olds in Boulder to try to control the spread COVID-19. That order expired Thursday at noon, but two other orders were put in place, including limiting the size of gatherings for those in the 18-to-22 range.

CU athletics, however, was given an opportunity to submit a plan to BCPH that would allow them to be except from the guidelines.

“I couldn’t be more excited for our student-athletes and coaches who have remained positive and persevered through a difficult seven months not knowing when or if they’d get to this point this season,” CU athletic director Rick George said in a press release from the school. “We’re grateful for the collaboration with Boulder County Public Health that’s made this return to practice possible. We will continue to employ robust protocols and procedures within our program to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and community.”

Last month, the Pac-12 Conference secured a deal with Quidel Corporation that will provide daily, rapid-results COVID-19 testing. With those tests, CU can quickly quarantine anyone who tests positive and reduce the amount of required contact tracing. That will help to prevent a large spread.

CU’s preseason practice schedule includes COVID-19 testing from 6-8 a.m. each day before meetings and practices. The Buffs have 24 practices and 26 COVID-19 tests scheduled between Friday and the Nov. 7 season opener against UCLA at Folsom Field.

Adam Munsterteiger of 247Sports.com reported that the football team will stay at the Millennium Harvest House Hotel for at least the first two weeks of camp in an effort to monitor players’ exposure to those not in the program. The Millennium Harvest House is located a short walk from the athletic facilities.

Patrick O’Rourke, CU’s interim executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer, said Wednesday that CU athletics has used the Pac-12’s COVID-19 guidelines as a “baseline.”

“CU athletics has actually put in a very stringent series of test requirements for student-athletes as a condition to be able to return to competition,” O’Rourke said. “We are working with the county and have submitted those protocols to the county so that they can review them. We’ve been engaging in regular testing and other requirements for the student-athletes. We’re seeing a really low positivity rate for them and are prepared to work with the county and have them make sure that from an epidemiological standpoint that they would be comfortable as we return to competition and practice.”

BCPH has now determined that CU’s plan will allow the Buffaloes to return to the football field.

The Pac-12 announced a return to competition on Sept. 24 – just hours after BCPH’s initial order – with a seven-game season kicking off Nov. 7. Teams in the conference are allowed open preseason camp on Friday.

CU head coach Karl Dorrell tweeted on Friday afternoon, “1 Day away from starting the 2020 season! #SkoBuffs #WeBack”

Senior kicker James Stefanou tweeted, “Feels like Christmas Eve… 1 day away #2020 #letsroll”