NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Members of the Rutgers football team were provided with at-home COVID-19 testing in anticipation of their return to campus and will continue to participate in ongoing health surveillance after they report to the Hale Center on Monday.
The Scarlet Knights - the first athletic program to return to campus - will undergo daily health screenings and temperature checks, and protocols will be in place for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to a press release from Associate Athletic Director for Communications Hasim Phillips.
“The health and safety of our students, coaches and administrators has been our paramount concern throughout this process,” said Rutgers Athletic Director Pat Hobbs. “With the guidance of healthcare experts, university administration, and in consultation with the Offices of the Governor and Secretary for Higher Education, we have devised a carefully detailed plan with protocols and processes for how our athletic facilities will used in this time of COVID -19.”
Rutgers closed its facilities and students began online instruction in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soon after, the university’s athletic programs were halted and the spring seasons were canceled.
While Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency and signed the Stay at Home executive order, Greg Schiano was busy calling recruits and filling out his staff.
Schiano, who was re-introduced as Rutgers coach on Dec. 4, was scheduled to make his return to the Rutgers sidelines for the traditional Scarlet-White Game in April.
Not only are Rutgers rooters among the millions of sports-starved fans across the country, they’re eager for Schiano to turn around a program that has gone 9-39 over the past four seasons.
The first step is to safeguard the players, coaches and staff’s health, university officials said.
The athletic department has “engaged in an extensive planning process” to ensure the safe return of its student-athletes.
Under the direction of Rutgers Athletics Chief Medical Officer Joshua Bershad, architects of the plan have collaborated with healthcare experts throughout the state as well as the Big Ten Conference Taskforce for Emerging Infections Disease, which includes a cohort of medical officials from across the country.
Bershad, who serves as Executive Vice President, Physician Services for RWJBarnabas Health, called on his first-hand experience in the fight against COVID-19 in the epicenter of the pandemic’s impact on the country to provide invaluable input in creating a plan that prioritized the safety and health of the student-athletes, coaches and support staff.
“We created a set of recommendations based on guidance supplied by internal experts within multiple areas of Rutgers University, and from our experience in caring for thousands of COVID-19 patients at RWJBarnabas Health,” said Bershad. “We utilize the Rutgers Saliva Test extensively in our process, which is yet another advantage of the partnership between a cutting-edge research university like Rutgers and top-flight health system like RWJBarnabas Health.”
Additionally, medical innovations on the Rutgers University campus offered the athletic department unparalleled resources. The saliva test for coronavirus was developed at Rutgers and was first of its kind to receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The saliva test allows for the screening of a broader population and is less invasive than the nose and throat swabs.
In addition to the clinical and operational elements of the return to campus plan, an emphasis has been placed on keeping the student-athletes and their families informed with pertinent updates. Communication with family members has been extensive and will remain continuous with virtual meetings.
“Our staff have been entrusted with the well-being of every player on our team,” said head coach Greg Schiano. “This is an immense responsibility, and one we take very seriously. We will continue to work closely with Dr. Bershad and his staff to provide a safe return to campus.”
A university spokesperson told TAPinto this week that no decision has been made about the fall semester. All summer activities were canceled and students are continuing to study online.