Tyra addresses COVID-19 positive tests, takes other questions

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- About six hours after the University of Louisville was forced to temporarily shut down its men's basketball program because two players tested positive for the coronavirus, Athletics Director Vince Tyra answered questions about that situation and others in a teleconference with the media.


Among other things, Tyra said he wasn't surprised by the positive tests, which prompted UofL Tuesday to suspend voluntary activities for the program. However, that hasn't stopped the school from moving into Phase 3 of allowing athletes to return to campus. Almost 275 are there and no other programs have suspended workouts and no facilities have been closed.


Tyra also said he couldn't guarantee that the Cardinals' football season will start as scheduled on Sept. 2. Same for basketball or any other sport. UofL hasn't named the players who tested positive


Tyra said Louisville's partnership with Norton Health Care enabled it to get test results within four hours after the two players exhibited some signs of the virus. The follow-through involved quarantining the players and contact tracing.


"We are certainly happy with the processes when these instances arise because they will, we're not naive to that," Tyra said. "From here, we'll monitor them and take all the necessary precautions. I'm really happy with the way people responded. Exactly according to plan, no panic, handle it, deal with it and now we'll go from there."


Tyra said one of the players already feels fine, but the other one still has some symptoms. More tests are scheduled Wednesday and next week.


Here are a few other highlights of Tyra's Q and A, edited lightly:


Question: Does this give you pause on your timetable with football eight weeks away, and how do you not let this go sideways?

Tyra: "To answer the second one first, that's why we have protocols and we have luxuries here at Louisville that some schools don't. We have access to tests and we get quick turnarounds. We were able to hopefully prevent any additional spread that I know some schools are worried about, as far as growing wildly or things like that.


"The other thing is, it's a situation where you just have to continue to educate. It's not something to where somebody steps outside the box of your protocols. . .it can happen, it's going to happen. Notify us if you're not feeling well and then stay home.


"This is certainly not a situation where you should feel pressure to, as we have all been raised, get to work or get to practice. This is a different scenario. It's not one where you shame somebody, you've got to educate."


Question: What is your expectation to have a sustained season in any sport? Is basketball at greater risk because it is played indoors?


Tyra: "Well, I would say anything indoors is probably a greater risk than anything outdoors. I think it just dictates where we are with the virus at the time that season gets off versus where we are today.


"Today, certainly you have to speculate on whether we kick off on time or not. All we can do is prepare for what we have on the schedule today. We have to be thinking about other scenarios along the way, but our focus has really been on that. And when instances like this come up, be prepared to deal with them and everybody act aggressively, and follow the protocols."


Queston: Do you have drop dead points on whether you're going to play the opener on Sept. 2 (against NC State)?


Tyra: "Obviously, it's interesting because as we've talked about there's no football czar, so I think inside the Power Five conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12), we do talk about it, we have AD meetings a couple times a week.


"We're going to continue to monitor the medical situation. You have to know that if you're going into the season, you're going to run into instances like we're running into with football right now. At least that's my belief.


"Now, who gets to set the date, I think is going to be collaborative, and when that gets set still is an unknown, because I think people are just still focused on what's going on. There's a lot of monitoring going on. We discuss these situations that individual campuses are having.


"Knowing that practice starts in the next few weeks, you have to believe that's going to be it. SO we're running out of time here for something to come down on a start date at the beginning of September and whether there's any dealy in those dates."


Question: Dan Gavitt (director of the men's NCAA basketball tournament) has proposed moving the college basketball season up. Rick Pitino has proposed moving it back. What is your position?


Tyra: "I'm not sure I have a position on that either way right now. I'm more focused on the fall sports than the winter sports. I've been thinking about men's and women's soccer and things like that, more than I have basketball to date.


"I know we're back on campus and so forth. And everybody knows the importance of it, but you can't let the economics drive the safety issues here. That's why I'm willing to be cautious with the timetables and we just have to deal with the outcomes. We've dealt with that to date and having to make some tough decisions on how to maintain our athletic department.


"If safety means more tough decisions, then so be it. It's not exciting to think about that, but as of right now we've been fortunate. We're only going to see the headlines where there's bad news, we're not seeing the headlines where there is good news on those things.


"I'm proud that when I look out the window in my office and see these athletes walking up and down a street. Like today, the full volleyball team, all in masks, 90-plus degrees out there. We all need to do that."

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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