Though Clemson University is going to delay the start of its in-person classes and the return of students to campus, the athletic department is going to continue to truck right along.
Clemson University President Jim Clements announced on Wednesday the university will begin the fall semester online and will delay in-person instruction until Sept. 21. The semester will begin as scheduled on Aug. 19 with online instruction. No other changes to the academic calendar will be made at this time.
Move-in for students living on campus is now scheduled to begin Sept. 13, and all current restrictions on campus gatherings and events will remain in place until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We ran several mathematical models and epidemiology models to predict the spread of the virus on the campus if we opened now. It is possible we could have several thousand cases of the virus on the campus if we opened now,” Clements said. “The virus is peaking, and it is pretty strong right now, so we felt our best decision was to wait a couple of weeks to bring people back.”
However, Clements and deputy athletic director Graham Neff said nothing will change at this time regarding preseason training for football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball. Those Clemson’s student-athletes have been on campus since the week of June 1 and have undergone several weeks of testing.
“As we have affirmed our protocols, experienced the ample testing that we have done, the quarantining and isolation behavior and just the continued realization and behavior of our staff and student athletes, we feel like we have really grown into a working process with our on campus facilities,” Neff said. “We feel like the cleaning and sanitation protocols with those have been very, very strong and that the student-athletes that are here, and with the test results we have been very transparent with (the media and public).
“We continue to track and trend in a positive direction.”
Clemson did not release a COVID-19 report last Friday. The Clemson Insider was told last week was a slow week for testing. There were just a handful of tests that were administered, and the results were really not enough to constitute a report.
Clemson’s last report came on July 10 and since June 1, when student-athletes began returning to campus, Clemson student-athletes and staff have undergone 722 COVID-19 tests with 53 positive results (47 students, 6 staff), a 7.3 percent positive rate. To date, there have been no hospitalizations related to COVID-19 for any individual within Clemson Athletics, and more than half of the positive cases have been asymptomatic.
All individuals who had previously tested positive have completed CDC-recommended isolation and are either back in activity or awaiting final medical clearance.
“I am proud of all of our students and I am proud of our student-athletes,” Clements said. “It has been nice to have some of them back. I am impressed with how they have been able to handle themselves and they are a good example of what things will look like when all of our students are able to return physically to the campus after Labor Day.”
Neff says the athletic department has been very steadfast with how they have executed their testing and have worked with MUSC to make sure they are learning as much as they can as they continue in the process. They have learned the reality of what the protocol means when there are examples of contact traces.
“We are in a really good spot with that,” he said. “We are waiting for our spring sports student-athletes to matriculate to campus. That time is still to be determined at this point. We certainly want to make sure the campus environment on campus and around campus is the best circumstance to do that, so we feel good about those that are here and have been here since early June.”
And Clements says he feels good about delaying the regular student populations’ return to campus.
“I believe the virus seems to be peaking right now. Hopefully, that will trend down in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We are going to launch a campaign about wearing a mask, washing your hands and following health procedures and cautions that are out there. So, we feel the time is right and that in a couple of weeks, around Labor Day time, we will be able to get them back in.
“Our intent is to have our students here, in the classroom, in the dorms and have things as fully normal as we can.”
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