Florida Gators football hopes to return to practice Monday after COVID-19 outbreak

Florida Gators football hopes to return to practice Monday after COVID-19 outbreak
(Source: Mark Lagrange)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Florida Gators football hopes to return to team activities on Monday following a COVID-19 outbreak within the program.

The Gators reported 25 players tested positive since last Tuesday, four more than the the previous 21 reported (including three walk-ons) by Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin last Wednesday - 31 players have tested positive this month.

“We’re right now, I mean I’m doing fine. Thanks for asking,” Dan Mullen said in his SEC teleconference. “The team for the most part, very similar. I think the majority of our guys have very minor symptoms, and then what we did is kind of following a lot of the NFL model and, I mean, out of the abundance of caution we’ve used this whole time, the program, to completely close the program to get back to zero positive tests.”

Mullen reported another player tested positive for the virus on Wednesday morning from a Tuesday test.

“We still had a positive this morning,” Mullen said. "It’s interesting to see now where the tracing comes. Obviously one of the things that you worry about with certain individuals is now that we’re kind of, we’re away, now that we’ve kind of, even though we’ve isolated, we’ve kind of taken ourselves out of our own bubble, that the structure, the kind of the structure we had before is not in place.

“So we’re trying to see now if any new case is kind of, could have been from our original where we were and the original spread on the team or if these are individuals kind of not following the quarantine procedure or just going out and getting it on their own because there’s no football going on right now.”

These numbers do not include any staff members that have tested positive. Mullen revealed on Saturday that he tested positive for COVID, and said a week ago that two assistants had also tested positive in the first round of testing - those numbers could very well have increased.

The University of Florida is still trying to trace the origins of the outbreak. During the SEC call, Mullen told reporters that he thinks one or two guys on the team tested negative on Thursday, but probably had the virus prior to boarding the plane to College Station.

“I think it definitely happened with the trip,” said Mullen. “Obviously it started on the plane ride there.” He added that the roommate situation/pre-game meal/plane ride home did not help stop the spread.

Mullen is currently isolating from his family, who he says have tested negative for the virus. The UF coach says the plan is to return on Monday, however, not everyone will be able to suit up for practice, since some individuals will still be in quarantine.

Safety will be a primary concern since players have not practiced in two full weeks.

“We’ll take our time getting guys in,” Mullen said. “Obviously health and safety has always been top priority within our program so it’s not like Monday -- we don’t act like we think nothing’s happened. We’ll build back up a little bit on Monday into what we’re doing and getting ourselves back on track and ready to go play. I think our guys have handled everything so far this year extremely well. I expect them to handle this the same.”

The COVID-19 outbreak forced Florida to suspend all team activities, while also postponing two home games: Missouri to Oct. 31 and LSU to Dec. 12.

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