After having to postpone its game against Army and canceling team practices last week after some athletes tested positive for the coronavirus, BYU is back to a regularly-scheduled game week as the Cougars welcome Troy to LaVell Edwards Stadium for their home opener.
While some quarantined players have already been cleared to return to team practices, others may not be expected until game day. Some may have to continue quarantining.
The players affected, whether by testing positive or due to contact tracing, were never revealed, but there’s one player that wasn’t involved: Zach Wilson.
The starting quarterback admitted to testing positive over the summer and is currently on the 90-day “exempt” list — although he is still being tested regularly. His exemption is set to end next week, when the Cougars host Louisiana Tech.
BYU’s starting quarterback believes he and other teammates contracted the virus during a neighborhood “gambling night” with “a bunch of the football guys.”
Luckily for Wilson, the symptoms weren’t severe, nor did they last long.
“Honestly, for me and the other guys that had it, it was just like a cold — you know, minor symptoms and just tired, fatigued, all that kind of stuff,” Wilson said. “For us, it was nothing crazy. It was four days and we were able to go again.”
When asked if possible long-term effects from COVID-19 could present down the road, which are still unknown, are a worry, Wilson said he related with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, even though the NFL player received backlash for his point of view.
At the start of the month, Cousins, a guest on the NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt’s “10 Questions” podcast, said he was just fine with getting coronavirus: “If I die, I die.” Cousins also elaborated that he does not believe masks work.
“I would rather play football than ever worry about it, that kind of stuff,” Wilson said. “I wear a mask to respect those around me. A teacher at Corner Canyon that I loved while I was there is in the ICU right now struggling with COVID, so I know it affects everyone differently. But for me, and I know a lot of other guys on the team feel the same way, we would rather just play football than ever worry about this.”
But the possibility of the season being canceled or further changed is ever-present as the pandemic rages, particularly in Utah.
Even though Monday’s case numbers were lower than the previous few days, as the Utah Department of Health reported, testing also decreased over the weekend. The rolling 7-day average — the metric public health officials use to gauge trends — is 847. The rolling 7-day average for percent of positive laboratory tests is 13.6% — the highest level recorded so far in Utah.
Utah County has been a driving force for new numbers in the state. Over the past week, Utah County has averaged more than 56 new cases a day per 100,000 residents, more than double the statewide average of 26.
As of Saturday, BYU reported 911 cases, up 149 in a single day.
Because of the unpredictability of the virus, Wilson is looking into moving into a studio apartment to eliminate contact tracing-enforced quarantine by not living with teammates.
However, senior linebacker Zayne Anderson said it’s not always clear who on the team has tested positive. Testing is kept discreet and results aren’t announced to the team as a whole.
“If someone were to get tested, you kind of know the guys that have had it and stay away from some of the guys that might be out and about all the time, but they’re pretty discreet in keeping their privacy of who has it and who doesn’t,” Anderson said. “Really, you’re out there on your own.”
However, as much as the Cougars would like to focus only on the football season, the current spike in numbers is still prevalent on their minds. Anderson, along with other team leaders, is encouraging players to avoid not only public events, but family events, weddings and parties.
“It’s just a little sacrifice, not going to any of those, that will help us prevent getting this disease,” Anderson said. “And it’s tough around here. I think it’s a really social city, but if everyone’s willing to comply, we can get it done, if people are willing to make some sacrifices.”