Who is to blame for the Cal football COVID crisis?
Something is not adding up.
In the initial reporting of the Cal COVID-19 crisis, it seems as if the California Golden Bears football team seemed to be directing their ire at the City of Berkeley.
The Berkeley Health department restricted some 20+ Cal players and staff from traveling to Tucson for last week’s Arizona game due to COVID-19 protocols, likely because 10 days quarantine is required after a positive test. So even though many of those players produced negative tests, it still fell within the ten-day window of isolation. This makes sense as rapid negative tests have proven to have their drawbacks.
Seems pretty clear-cut, right? This is all on the draconian, meddling City of Berkeley.
Well, there’s one problem.
This policy has been well-known since the start of training camp.
It’s on the UC Berkeley website!
Moreover, this policy is in line with Pac-12 guidelines. Any positive test by an athlete means that the athlete isolates for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status.
It seems like the only objection is that the entire football team is required to test frequently after a COVID outbreak. The Pac-12 recommends it. Berkeley requires it. Those tests are supposed to go for 14 days from the first positive test, and then so on and so forth until there are no negative tests.
But Cal is upset...that the City of Berkeley is trying to avoid a potential COVID outbreak on campus and in the student body? There are 20 potential positives in this cohort! Cal players would have been heading on buses and planes to Tucson to then travel to another large public university, cram into a smaller locker room, and interact in close quarters with other Wildcats. That’s an outbreak scenario if I’ve ever seen one.
So who is exactly at fault?
Is it the City of Berkeley for following general CDC protocol to mitigate spread in a workplace environment and the larger university environment of some 40,000+ students and staffers?
Is it the University of California for miscommunicating that information to the athletic department and the team?
Is it Cal Athletics for being negligent, not providing the proper context of what would happen in this situation, and not creating an environment that would have prevented this doomsday scenario?
Or is it on the leadership in Cal football for simply ignoring all of the above and letting players and staff be a little too free with their spare time and mask usage, leading to an outbreak situation with 20+ players and staffers getting COVID around the same time period? And then when the blame game comes around after a dreadful loss, they try to deflect the issue until the usual suspects?
It seems like one program is trying to pass the buck to the other, with no clear answer as to who exactly is the culprit. Maybe it all goes around in parts.
But I’m having trouble believing the City of Berkeley is solely at fault for laying out health policy that is readily available and public to prevent additional outbreaks. I’m also having trouble with Cal somehow not educating themselves enough on the situation beforehand after dealing with cancellations and isolation issues sinking their 2020 campaign.
Cal could have easily avoided this situation with better testing, better precautions, and better leadership and guidance. Instead, we’re here.
It’s a mess. Until there is some accountability, it’s only going to get messier.
NOTE: Since most of the positive tests occurred last week, it stands to reason that most of these 20+ players and staff will be unavailable for full-contact practice as Cal prepares for USC. It is likely that most should be able to return to action by Saturday, although it will entirely depend on whether they tested positive before probably last Wednesday.
Additionally, we should brace ourselves for the possibility of more positive tests over the week, since it’s likely the Cal football workplace will be regularly tested through at least next week.
We can all agree this was an abject failure on all accounts. The thing that was the most egregious was the lack of communication on any level. Whether the process was all false positives and they should've played or they were all real positives and they couldn't play, they along with us just need to know what the hell was going on. It seems like no one knew and never even had a chance to know, which is lunacy. You'd think communication would be at the forefront at the top of this when it was the last thing on any sanctioning body's mind.
Avi I appreciate the work you have done uncovering a lot of this however I feel the need to make this abundantly clear:
Continuing to spin this as a failure of the coaching staff and leadership is ridiculous, and impossible to state as actual fact.
This is literally Covid's fault. That is it, that is where it starts and stops.
The players were 99% vaccinated, we live in one of the highest % vaccinated places in the country.
Everything else is pure speculation and I'd argue reckless speculation at that.