Discover more from Write For California
Justin Wilcox addresses the media on Cal COVID situation
Full press conference quotes, including a response to the statement from the City of Berkeley and the current testing situation in the Cal program.
Cal coach Justin Wilcox took his first public media availability since Tucson, where Cal lost to Arizona 10-3 after being down two dozen Cal football players due to COVID protocol. Over 44 players and staff have tested positive in the last few weeks, leading to the rescheduling of the Cal-USC game.
Justin Wilcox pointed out communications breakdowns between the athletic program, the city of Berkeley, and the overall university about what would happen if several Cal players tested symptomatically and raised workplace COVID protocol. Wilcox stated that “Due to the vaccinated population of the team, [the outbreak protocol] wasn't part of the guidance set forth by the city and the campus. It's not that we were breaking their guidance. That just wasn't part of it.”
“That communications process could be improved.”
Wilcox did get asked about City of Berkeley’s harsh public statement. “We have followed the guidelines through the athletic department, the university, and the city of Berkeley. We have health professionals housed in our building, at our practices, on our planes. They're in our weight room, in the training room.”
“I will say we have followed the guidance based on our vaccinated population, and/or unvaccinated population, which was very small.”
Wilcox refused to get into a fight with the city. "I don't necessarily want to get into a back-and-forth with the city of Berkeley. For me, it's about having productive communication. I don't know if that's overly productive."
“The City of Berkeley has a very difficult job. There’s a lot on their plate and they’re trying to do the best they can.”
The Cal head coach did say he had never been consulted on a lack of institutional control regarding COVID mandates. “I have never had a meeting about the egregious non-compliance of our players.”
Wilcox also suggested that mask compliance has not been 100% in any walk of life. “Do we have to remind people from time to time to put their mask on? Have I been told that? Yeah, absolutely. And I would also think maybe there’s folks in the city of Berkeley walking down the street or going to church or dinner…that might fall into the same category.”
Wilcox also tried to put the frustration of his athletes into context with how the rest of the UC Berkeley student body and the rest of college football at large: “Not minimizing the impact of COVID-19 or its effect on individuals or communities, but I think some of the frustration from our team is when they look at their peers on campus, with student bodies, student groups, if the same standards are being applied. And when they look across college football, is it the same thing?”
With so many positive players, outbreak protocol will continue regularly on a weekly basis until less than three Bears are testing positive for a 14-day period, then weekly after that. Wilcox: "Throughout the rest of the season, I would anticipate us being on a regular testing schedule. That's what I would anticipate. But we're optimistic."
Wilcox was asked which vaccine the program administered: "That's a question for our athletics administration and our campus. I'm not privy to who got what vaccine."
Wilcox did not comment on whether the symptomatic patient was one of the two unvaccinated individuals in the football program. He also did not comment on questions about the status of COVID-positive players, current or past, due to student privacy laws.
The program has made modifications to return to 2020 procedures. Weight training equipment has been moved back outside. Meals are now in a grab-and-go situation. Meeting protocols haven’t changed.
“The team is still practicing. We have limited players. We practiced today and tomorrow. They’ll have a workout on Friday. We’ll be back on the field on Monday.”
Cal offensive lineman Valentino Daltoso did indicate some initial confusion about the heightened COVID protocols. “One of the lead doctors for UHS [University Health Services]. She came and talked to us and answer all of our questions and you know, she was there for a while. I think moving forward, everyone is very clear about, you know, the protocols that are in place going forward.”
With USC rescheduled, players are now focused on getting the Axe back. Safety Daniel Scott: “Our mentality toward the end of the year has been to put our heads down and battle. I feel optimistic, I feel very confident. I'm real excited for that game and getting the Axe back."
Wilcox added: “We’re looking forward to getting many players back next week…and continuing with our season. We’re certainly optimistic.”
Scott echoed that sentiment: “I think going forward and learning from this situation, we've tried to take a more proactive approach. I think the mood today. I was smiling, we were laughing running around."
Wilcox did have a message for Cal fans who are frustrated with the situation.
"Choose optimism. There are reasons to be negative, not unfounded. However, we’ll find some good in this. Our team will, our fans will and we’ll make the most of it. Everybody has their problems. We’ll work through ours and do the best we possibly can. But be optimistic because there’s a lot of folks out there that choose the other way, because that’s the easier route."
“Everybody has their problems. We’ll work through ours and do the best we possibly can. But be optimistic because there’s a lot of folks out there that choose the other way, because that’s the easier route."