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Arizona pauses phased return of football players, other athletes due to increased COVID-19 cases in the state

Arizona is the latest football program hitting the pause button on the return to campus. This, though, isn’t due to a coronavirus outbreak within the team.

A month ago, the state of Arizona record a single-day total of 400 new positive cases of COVID-19. Sunday, the state 3,858 new cases, the most for any single day since the pandemic began. Monday night, Arizona announced that its pausing the phased return of student-athletes, including football players, to campus for voluntary workouts.

Arizona began allowing football players to return, 30 at first, on June 15. Another 30 were scheduled to return last Monday, June 22, with the same number expected back Monday of this week. July 6 was when all newcomers to the team, including signees and transfers, were scheduled to make it to campus.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have made this decision with campus and community partners to pause our re-entry process,” UA athletic director Dave Heeke said in a statement. “The health, safety and well-being of all members of our community is our number one priority. We will continue to work in conjunction with campus partners and our local government agencies to support and evaluate a safe and healthy return to campus.”

As to when workouts will resume? “Arizona athletics will assess when to resume its re-entry process in collaboration with the guidelines and protocols of the University of Arizona, Pac-12 Conference, NCAA, and state and local government agencies,” the school stated.

Arizona isn’t the first football program to hit the pause button because of COVID-19 concerns.

Last week, eight individuals connected to the Boise State football program tested positive, forcing the school to temporarily scuttle workouts. June 20, K-State announced that it is pausing all voluntary workouts as well. The reason? “[A] total of 14 student-athletes have tested positive for active COVID-19 following PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing of more than 130 student-athletes.” The weekend before that, Houston decided to put a halt to voluntary on-campus workouts after six symptomatic UH student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19.

Other programs have seen a high number of players test positive but continue workouts. Among those are Clemson (37 players tested positive), LSU (30 players quarantined), Texas (13 confirmed positives for football players) and Texas Tech (23 positives for players/staffers).