Under a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) decision made Saturday, the University of Michigan Athletic Department will immediately pause athletic activities in all sports, including games, team and individual training sessions, until further notice and up to 14 days.
While U-M has worked diligently on testing and reporting within state and Big Ten Conference guidelines, the MDHHS is mandating a more aggressive strategy for this B.1.1.7 variant, which exceeds current program efforts designed around the standard form of the virus, according to a university news release.
According to The Michigan Daily, the new strain of the virus came from a student-athlete who had visited the United Kingdom.
“Canceling competitions is never something we want to do, but with so many unknowns about this variant of COVID-19, we must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools,” said Michigan director of athletics Warde Manuel in a statement.
The mandate follows positive test results for the SAR-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant virus infections from several individuals linked to the U-M Athletic Department through its diligent testing regiment. The B.1.1.7 variant is thought to be approximately 50 percent more transmissible than the standard form of the virus, leading to faster spread of the virus, potentially increased numbers of cases, and additional hospitalizations and deaths.
“Therefore, a pause of all athletic activities and a closure of all U-M athletic facilities are being taken to strengthen the public health intervention,” reads a statement. “Team members (student-athletes, coaches, and team staff) must immediately isolate/quarantine effective Jan. 23 until further notice and up to 14 days (Feb. 7).
“University public health officials are working closely with the Washtenaw County Health Department and Michigan Department of Human Health Services on additional mitigation strategies to address the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant in the university community. The university will be carefully considering additional mitigation measures. There are many unknowns that remain under investigation by U-M, local and state public health officials.”
No determination has been made on how the pause may impact scheduled games beyond Feb. 7.