Updated Sept. 17, 2020, at 11:43 p.m. to include information on testing and the return to practice.
Effective today, all Elon University varsity athletics have paused practice until further notice due to the spread of COVID-19 among athletes, according to Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley.
In an email to undergraduate students, Dooley said 21 student-athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, which includes a cluster of football players.
Dooley also wrote that 18 more student-athletes have COVID-19 symptoms.
"Over the past two days, Elon has done extensive testing of students on the teams who may have been exposed and those test results could yield additional cases," Dooley wrote. "The spread of cases among student-athletes appears to be primarily related to social contacts outside of normal team activities."
The university will re-evaluate the suspension of practices and workouts, according to Owen Covington, director of Elon University News Bureau.
"We are now aware of this number of cases among a designated group – including a cluster within a single team - it is prudent to limit all interactions among student-athletes," Covington wrote. "We will re-evaluate this decision in the coming days as more test results come back and we have more information to take targeted actions that will maintain health and safety for the community."
Don Scott, assistant athletic director of marketing and fan engagement and interim director of communications, forwarded requests for comment to university communications.
Student-athletes are randomly tested each week. Out of the four weeks of random testing since the start of classes, there have been no positive cases, according to the university coronavirus dashboard. This only includes tests conducted through the university.
According to Covington, the university will continue randomly testing student-athletes with added testing to specific teams.
"[We] will be doing additional testing of some teams and potentially exposed team members in coming days," Covington said. "Original NCAA guidelines suggested that 25 percent of student-athletes and athletics staff be tested every two weeks when in competition. Elon has adopted those more stringent guidelines despite the fact that no teams are participating in competitions this fall."
According to an email and message from Mark Elliston, director of the track and field and cross country team, as well as Kevin Jermyn, the head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country and assistant coach of track and field, the temporary suspension of athletic activities is due to "increased COVID related issues."
Elliston wrote in an email that practice would resume on Monday.
Jermyn wrote in a message to the men and women’s cross country team that this pause, which is in effect until Monday, is at the direction of Athletic Director Dave Blank. Jermyn also said that all head coaches are meeting on Monday to “review where we are and plan accordingly.”
One athlete on the women’s track team, who requested to remain anonymous due to fear of repercussion from athletics, said pausing athletic activity doesn’t come as a surprise.
“I’m actually surprised it didn’t happen sooner,” the athlete said in an interview with Elon News Network. “Based off of everyone’s actions, I am not surprised. Our social circles are way too big. The athletes all interact with one another, and I’m not surprised it’s spreading as rapidly as it is.”
She also said that athletes aren’t “being honest and owning up to their actions” or being careful when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.
According to Covington, student-athletes will be held to the same conduct standards, but said that the "vast majority" of COVID-19 cases don't come from conduct violations.