Spikes in COVID-19 cases have forced ECU football to pause activities twice since voluntary on-campus workouts began earlier this summer. More recently, a cluster of positive cases forced a 12-day pause, effectively costing the Pirates their Sept. 12 game against Marshall.

At its peak, this most recent jump in cases impacted at least 30 individuals associated with the program, not just student-athletes. Of course for purposes of being able to play a football game, tracking how many student-athletes have the virus or have been contact traced is a very important.

Nearly a full month after experiencing a pause-inducing rise in COVID-19 cases, ECU’s football team is well on its way toward making a full recovery.

“We’re getting better,” head coach Mike Houston said in regards to his team’s COVID-19 numbers. “We’ve got a large number that came out of quarantine this week. Some of them were in isolation, so they’re in the return to play protocol. Some of them were just in quarantine, so they started back practicing in the last day. They’re in a variety of different levels. We do have one active positive case still out. I do not anticipate that player being available for Central Florida.”

Following guidance from the NCAA, the virus itself can keep student-athletes off the practice field anywhere from 10-14 days. The lasting impact of being out of shape and having to enter a return to play protocol before being cleared, however, is what takes the most time and could spell bad things if a team has a spike in-season.

That is why Houston has been on his players day in and day out about making smart decisions away from the athletic facilities, and doing all the small things like wearing a mask and socially distancing. Those things can help ensure a successful season during uncertain times.

League-mandated testing three times per week will paint the picture of whether teams are following protocols properly, while programs like ECU will attempt to create a ‘bubble’ around its players after administering the rapid result test each Friday during game weeks.

While the Pirates, according to Houston, will likely be without the player currently with the virus, they enter another round of testing on Wednesday optimistic about where they stand on the COVID-19 front.

“The hope is that we can get everybody back this week. That way everybody is ready to go at the beginning of next week, and we do a great job with our testing in the next two weeks and have the rest of the roster available to play,” Houston said.

ECU begins its 2020 season on Sept. 26 against conference opponent UCF inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The game is currently scheduled for a noon kick-off.

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