Lynn Thompson, AD, Bethune-Cookman University
Image: MEAC Digital Network

A sudden spike in on-campus coronavirus infections combined with a worsening outlook on the impact of the virus throughout the greater Dayton Beach, Florida area prompted Bethune Cookman University to cancel the prospect of a spring sports season.

Just 24 hours after the school announced it would be the first HBCU Division I school to shut down all fall and spring competition because of increasing COVID-19 concerns, BCU Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Lynn Thompson explained Tuesday that the situation had just become too untenable to risk playing in the midst of an environment growing more dangerous and uncertain with each passing day.

“The health and the safety of all of our student-athletes was priority No. 1,” Thompson said Tuesday. “One of the other factors that we had to consider was, presently, we’re in a shelter-in-place situation on campus, and that’s for everybody. It was going to be entirely difficult for us to engage in our normal athletic activities.”

Earlier this month, the school announced a recent spike in infections that led to a lockdown after 15 cases were identified and more than 30 students were forced to quarantine.

Volusia County, which encompasses, Bethune Cookman, has averaged 77 cases a day over the last seven days and 2,200 infections per 100,000 people since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“Up until a little over a week ago we saw remarkably positive results from our testing protocols,” said Thompson. “Over the past eight days, however, we’ve noted a sudden spike in cases on campus, hence this decision.”

The most recent campus outbreak is believed to be traced to what Thompson described as events that could have been potentially super spreader in nature.

“Well, I think that the sudden spikes raised a ton of eyebrows,” he said. “And through our contact trace, not only in athletics but across the campus, we were able to identify some potential events that would have fallen to sort of say, so to speak into some super spread events. That combined with some of the other activities that are beginning to happen on a routine basis in our community and in our town began to threaten which was in our eyes, a very successful semester.”

Thompson, who is part of the MEAC’s COVID-19 Forecasting Committee and lost a family member to the virus, acknowledged that the increasing financial commitment to testing played a role in the school’s decision to not move forward with spring activities.

“Clearly, the economic factors would also begin to take place and have some impact on these decisions,” Thompson said.

MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas explained that all schools within the league had until Nov. 16 to forgo spring sports, but fell short of saying what threshold would need to be met for the conference to make a corresponding decision to halt a spring season if other schools took the BCU path.

“We have not come to that conclusion yet,” said Thomas, who explained that the league schedule would be adjusted accordingly to compensate for BCU’s absence.”So, unfortunately, though, I won’t be able to answer.”

That exploratory process, said Thomas, is unlikely to take place until “late this year or early next year.”

As of Tuesday, BCU remains the only MEAC school — for now — to opt-out of spring sports.

“Obviously, they are (BCU) disappointed that they had to do this.”Not only are institutions of higher learning having to make adjustments, but our world is having to make adjustments, and this will not be the only adjustment.”



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