The University of Maine has halted its winter sports schedules for at least two weeks “due to positive (COVID-19) test results on campus, including among individuals involved with the varsity athletic programs,” the school announced Tuesday afternoon.

“We are indeed seeing several cases across multiple teams,” university President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said in a conference call with media.

The decision, made by Ferrini-Mundy in consultation with the University of Maine System and other campus leaders, affects games through at least Dec. 8.

Basketball games on the schedule over the next two weeks will be canceled, according to Athletic Director Ken Ralph. Working with Hockey East, Maine will try to reschedule the hockey games.

The men’s basketball team is at a hotel in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun casino, where it was supposed to play Virginia on Wednesday and Central Connecticut State on Friday, before traveling to Hamden, Connecticut, for a game Sunday at Quinnipiac.

Several national reports earlier Tuesday indicated that a member of Maine’s team had tested positive and the team had left the casino facility, which has been dubbed Bubbleville because it is the site for a number of games pitting teams from across the country through Dec. 5.

Ralph said the team will stay in Connecticut until results from another round of COVID tests administered Tuesday are known, and the university determines how it can safely arrange transportation that will meet Maine state and university guidelines.

“We have asked them to take an additional PCR test in Connecticut,” Ralph said, to make sure they are aware of any “potential positives in the program.”

Ralph said all winter sports athletes began daily testing for COVID-19 one week prior to their first competition. Before that the university did surveillance testing of athletes multiple times a week.

“We knew at some point we were going to catch some positives and that’s what this is designed to do. We have to remember that, that this is about keeping the community safe,” Ralph said.

In addition to campus-administered tests, the men’s basketball team also had to take a separate Vault Saliva test required by the Mohegan Tribe, which owns and operates Mohegan Sun. Those tests were administered on Friday and then processed at Vault Labs in New Jersey. But the team had to leave for Connecticut before getting the results from the extra test because it was required, as a further safety precaution, to be on site for two days before Wednesday’s game.

“The tests came in while the team was already in Connecticut. We would never, ever allow a student to travel with a positive test,” Ralph said.

Ferrini-Mundy said, “we knew as the men’s team left that it might be the case we would need to bring them back.”

She said she decided all UMaine teams would need to cease activities.

“We talked about, could this team be OK and that team could keep going?” Ferrini-Mundy said. “And then I made the call, look, everybody is too close. This is too dangerous for us right now for us to say we will try to parse through this some way. There’s a point where we need to be very cognizant of community spread and that tracing doesn’t always get us to the source.”

The UMaine women’s basketball team was scheduled to play at Mohegan Sun on Saturday and Sunday. They had not left campus and those games were canceled by the event organizers because of COVID-19 concerns earlier on Tuesday.

UMaine administrators would not say how many athletic teams have had members with positive COVID cases, or even if they are all winter sports athletes but confirmed the cases cut across multiple teams.

“There are a number of athletes who have tested positive and who have confirmed positive,” said Robert Dana, vice president of student life.

The Maine men’s basketball team had traveled to Connecticut on Monday, arriving around 6 p.m. Upon arrival they would have been tested for COVID-19 and then isolated in their rooms.

En route to the tournament site, Coach Richard Barron told the Press Herald that his team had not had a single positive test during the school year but was fully aware that could change.

“So far we’ve had a lot of success and our guys have taken it seriously,” Barron said. “We’re just doing our part, washing hands and wearing masks but that doesn’t guarantee that everything goes off without a hitch. So much seems to be beyond your control.

“There’s a lot of anxiety around it. I don’t mean fear. I don’t think our guys have fear but it’s just anxious about whether or not we actually get to play.”

UPDATE: This story was updated on Nov. 25 at 1:23 p.m. to clarify how the extra COVID-19 test required by the Mohegan Tribe was administered to the Maine men’s basketball team.

 


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