Iowa football: Positive coronavirus tests in program, but 'relatively minor' symptoms

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

The Iowa football program has been taking unprecedented measures to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus since players returned to campus June 8, and there’s been good news and bad news — depending on your perspective.

Let’s start with the bad. Within the athletics department, positive tests are on the rise. According to figures released each Monday by the university, there were 22 positive tests out of 97 conducted (a 22.7% positivity rate) between June 15 and July 12. Up until June 14, there were only three positive tests and 343 negatives (a 0.9% positive rate). The university doesn’t specify which sports have been affected or whether the positive tests are for athletes or staff.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, left, pats linebacker Djimon Colbert on the shoulder during a press conference Thursday at Kinnick Stadium.

Nevertheless, the football program has had individuals quarantined after positive tests, spokesman Steve Roe confirmed. And although the team has not shut down voluntary strength and conditioning workouts, use of the practice fields for 7-on-7 drills has been cut off.

“It’s brought a lot of unique challenges, especially with the people that pop up with COVID and then the people around them have to be quarantined,” sophomore starting center Tyler Linderbaum said Thursday. “… We’re taking it a day at a time. Each workout could be your last one for two weeks.

“Guys are starting to realize that you’ve got to be smarter outside with what you do and places you go.”

There are silver linings, as mentioned. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said that although there have been some positive cases, none have been serious.

“If there are any positives at this point, the symptoms have been relatively minor. Nobody has really been affected greatly. No hospitalizations, those types of things,” Ferentz said in a news conference just outside the north end zone of Kinnick Stadium. “That’s been good. We’re getting good medical support.”

With the goal of playing football in the fall, Ferentz outlined some of the measures the team has taken. In addition to getting COVID-19 tests upon their returns to campus, players and staff must fill out daily health questionnaires and have their temperatures taken to enter the Hansen Football Performance Center. All meals are to-go, as opposed to past traditions of eating together.

Maybe most interesting is that Iowa normally forms strength and conditioning groups by position, but this summer players are being broken up into their social circles. For example, if four players share a house, they’re assigned to work out out together. Also, one quarterback is assigned to a pod of wide receivers for voluntary throwing drills. As you can imagine, it would be tough to practice come Aug. 7 (when fall camp is scheduled to begin) if every quarterback was quarantined for COVID-19.  

Each day brings news challenges and news, it seems. The NCAA on Thursday outlined certain guidelines that Power Five schools are expected to follow if there are games this season, including mandatory testing 72 hours before a competition and face shields on helmets.

“We’ve tried to encourage our players to do the best we can all do, given the circumstances,” Ferentz said. “We have to prepare full-speed.”