Inside the Cal v. Arizona Football Game and the 'COVID-19 Protocols'

Chase Garbers speaks out about last Saturday's game

Chase Garbers and 23 other California Golden Bears did not travel to Tuscon, Ariz., to compete against the Arizona Wildcats because of “COVID protocol,” the university said early last week.

As a result, California lost to Arizona in a 3-10 decision this past Saturday. Beyond the game result, Golden Bears are upset.

“We players are frustrated with our University Health Services,” started a note posted by Garbers on Twitter Monday night. “City and University officials spoke to us today, they really had no answers for us.”

It appears the COVID-19 protocols that prevented the Golden Bears from fielding their complete roster came from the city of Berkeley and the University of California, Berkeley administration. The city of Berkeley is unique, as it has its own public health division.

In a press conference after the Cal v. Arizona football game, California head coach Justin Wilcox explained to reporters that he had not heard from the Pac-12 Conference about whether his 24 players and five coaches who did not travel would be available this coming week.

“I have not heard anything from the Pac-12. This is a city of Berkeley, and campus, they’re the ones relaying the information to me,” Coach Wilcox said, referring to the no-travel decision.

What happened in the Cal v. Arizona football game?

On Thursday, Nov. 4, Cal Athletics announced “multiple Cal football student-athletes are in COVID protocol and will not be available to play in Saturday’s game at Arizona” in a press release.

The university athletic department cited student privacy laws to avoid listing the number or names of affected players.

However, in an updated depth chart released by California on Saturday, who was affected became clear. Chase Garbers and seven other starters, including kicker Dario Longhetto, defensive end Luc Bequette and inside linebacker Trey Paster, were notably absent from the list.

Why did Cal lose so many of its football players against Arizona?

Student-athletes take occasional COVID-19 tests as part of public health guidelines to combat the ongoing pandemic. A positive COVID-19 test may require additional testing for the individual and others, plus potentially other precautions.

Last week, one or more California football players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19, which initiated the COVID-19 protocols.

According to an FAQ about positive COVID-19 cases published on a University of California, Berkeley coronavirus resource webpage: “When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate for at least 10 days per [city of Berkeley] public health isolation order, regardless of vaccination status.”

There are different public health guidelines for individuals depending on whether an individual is vaccinated against COVID-19. Unvaccinated individuals typically must undergo more frequent testing and adopt additional safety precautions, including required mask-wearing when indoors.

Garbers believes he and his teammates should have been subject to the more lax requirements. According to the university athletic department, “99 percent of football student-athletes are fully vaccinated” against COVID-19.

In the note posted on Twitter, Garbers said, “the testing was not mandated by anyone.”

He added, “it was highly recommended, meaning that they [the COVID-19 testing] should’ve never happened. But the university told us it was mandated and we could not participate unless we tested.”

“They will continue to test us this week,” the note continued. “These tests also aren't mandated but highly recommended so therefore we should have a choice on whether to take the test or not. But they are still forcing us to take the test with the threat of cancelling [sic] competition unless we test.”

“Nothing was mandated but it was enforced... with the threat of keeping players and staff out of competition until tested,” the quarterback said of the city health division and university health services department.

Chase Garbers’ note concludes: “We have worked too hard to have someone take this all away from us, it is wrong. We deserve answers and transparent communication.”

Read California quarterback Chase Garber’s note