Notre Dame was a success story throughout the summer with how it managed to contain COVID-19 cases within its football program. That good news came to an end when students returned to campus earlier this month.
In the days since Notre Dame welcomed back students, there have been 147 positive tests on campus. Per Pete Sampson of The Athletic, the majority are senior students who live off-campus. That significantly complicates matters.
On-campus breakouts put schools in a Catch-22. If you remain in session, outbreaks can continue, especially if there is a large off-campus population interacting with others in the community. Send students home, and you risk spreading the virus to their families and loved ones, who may be at higher risk of serious repercussions. Of course, those people exist on campus within the Notre Dame faculty as well.
Notre Dame president John Jenkins says he considered shutting school down for the fall. Instead, he will close campus and move all classes online for two weeks, to see if that can help contain the virus. If not, he says students may be sent home for the fall.
Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins says the administration considered closing the University for the remainder of the semester.
Instead, the campus will close for the next two weeks with remote learning. If these steps are not successful, students will be sent home.
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) August 18, 2020
If everyone was on campus and strictly adhering to quarantine protocols, this could work. The off-campus community, which Notre Dame has little effective jurisdiction over, will make it challenging. Hopefully those students take things serious and handle this the right way.
The potential for canceled in-person classes also calls football into question. The Fighting Irish are set to play an ACC schedule this year, the first time that the team will ever participate in a conference. Another ACC school—North Carolina—has already moved to online-only learning for the semester after it had a wave of outbreaks after students returned to campus. It doesn’t sound like they have any plans for that to put a halt to the Tar Heels football season.
Notre Dame football would probably handle things similarly, but as many have pointed out, if players can stay on campus in order to play while others are sent home, it really pokes a hole in the “student-athlete” amateurism model.
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