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Michigan Football Continues Amid Campus COVID Spike

Paul Steinbach

Michigan's football program can continue operating despite local health officials issuing a two-week stay-in-place order for the university's undergraduate students.

As reported by Sports Illustrated, the Washtenaw County Health Department issued the order Tuesday due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. The order lasts until 7 a.m. on Nov. 3, and students can leave their residences for exercise, work, food, medical appointments, voting, religious services or to attend in-person classes. 

Moreover, the health department said any students who play intercollegiate varsity sports can go to practices and games. Under the order, the athletic medical staff must be present at events and "actively [supervise] the team's COVID-19 mitigation activities." A staff member "has the authority to suspend the practice if he or she believes COVID-19 mitigation practices require that result, and testing is conducted per governing athletic organizations' policies."

The news coincided with Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel declaring that football's return should mitigate revenue losses resulting from the pandemic.

"We don’t know the final potential impact of playing less games, but based on our estimates, if we do have the ability to play the games this year and get through everything, our deficit would go from $100 million to about $80 million,” Manuel said on the latest episode of the Conqu'ring Heros podcast with Jon Jansen on Tuesday afternoon, as reported by the Detroit Free Press.

Unlike other major athletic departments, Michigan has not yet resorted to cutting sports to make ends meet. However, Manuel announced in early September that the department was laying off 21 employees to offset revenue loss, and highly paid figures like Manuel, football coach Jim Harbaugh and men's basketball coach Juwan Howard have all accepted salary reductions of up to 10 percent.

More than 1,000 students have been infected since the start of Michigan's fall term, despite limits on gatherings and classes that are mostly held online. Cases related to the school represent 61 percent of Washtenaw County's total cases, compared to just 2 percent in August, according to SI. Meanwhile, most recent testing results from within the athletic department revealed that of 1,559 athletes, coaches and staff tested, only 11 came up positive for COVID-19. Harbaugh told reporters Monday that none of his players were set to miss Saturday's season-opening game against Minnesota due to testing positive.

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