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Notre Dame suspends football practice after hitting 222 COVID-19 cases on campus

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  • Jack Swarbrick
    Athletic director of Notre Dame University

After seeing another spike in coronavirus cases on its campus this week, Notre Dame is putting football practice on hold.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that the football team had suspended practice for Wednesday and possibly Thursday as well. The decision comes as the university deals with a suddenly spiking COVID-19 case count.

COVID-19 hitting Notre Dame hard

By Notre Dame’s own reported count, the school has seen 222 positive cases on its campus since Aug. 3. The school saw 155 positive cases out of 775 tests on Monday and Tuesday alone, compared to four positives on 128 tests when classes resumed on Aug. 10.

That prompted Notre Dame president John Jenkins to announce the school was moving to online-only instruction until at least Sept. 2 for undergraduate students:

“With the advice and encouragement of Dr. Mark Fox of the St. Joseph County Health Department, we believe we can take steps short of sending students home for remote instruction, at least for the time being, while still protecting the health and safety of the campus community,” Father Jenkins told students in a virtual meeting this afternoon.

“The virus is a formidable foe,” Father Jenkins said in announcing enhanced testing for students experiencing symptoms and surveillance testing for those without symptoms. “For the past week, it has been winning. Let us as the Fighting Irish join together to contain it.”

Jenkins pointed to “off-campus gatherings” as the source of most of the infections, even though such gatherings were inevitable once the decision to hold on-campus instruction was made. Jenkins also asked for students to report those others have been “flagrantly violating safety protocols.”

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 14: A general view of Notre Dame Staduim prior to the college football game between the New Mexico Lobos and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 14, 2019, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN.(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Coronavirus cases are already in the triple-digits at Notre Dame. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Notre Dame is pretty much the only FBS program left in the Midwest after the Big Ten and MAC announced they were canceling their seasons. If it isn’t safe enough for students to go back to classes after more than two weeks, that would be an ominous development for the football program.

Such issues haven’t been limited to Notre Dame among power programs.

UNC in the same boat

Hours after Swarbrick revealed Notre Dame was suspending football practice, the University of North Carolina followed suit by announcing it was suspending all athletic activities until at least 5 p.m. Thursday:

"After consulting with our health experts and University leadership, we are taking this action to protect our students, coaches and staff,'' said Carolina Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. "We want to make sure we continue to do everything we can to ensure that that our teams, campus and community remain healthy.''

Like Notre Dame, UNC had made an abrupt swap to online-only classes on Monday after multiple COVID-19 outbreaks on its campus, with 155 reported new cases.

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