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California’s COVID status may complicate Lobo football plans

Danny Gonzales, right, presides over a practice from earlier this month. The team continues with its plan to play at San Jose State on Saturday to open the Lobos’ 2020 season. (University of New Mexico photo)

The University of New Mexico has kept its plans intact to play its college football game at San Jose State on Saturday, even as California moved to the restricted list for travel with regard to COVID-19 – which means UNM’s football team would require quarantining for 14 days upon return – UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said Wednesday evening.

UNM football would not be exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement, Nora Meyers Sackett, Press Secretary for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, told the Journal

“Right now, we’re moving forward with plans to play the game (Saturday at San Jose State) and we’re exploring multiple scenarios for what we will need to do next week and beyond,” Nuñez told the Journal.

Nuñez declined to provide specific details of the scenarios “because nothing is finalized,” he said.

“UNM Athletics will continue to work with the Governor’s office on future scenarios, opportunities and considerations,” said Nuñez. He added that UNM has reached out to Lujan Grisham and staff and will continue to reach out to them.

The Lobos are scheduled to play at Hawaii, currently not on the restrictied travel list, on Nov. 7.

California has reached 10.9 positive cases per 100,000 over the last seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control website. That equates to 109 per 1 million, which is over the 80-per million threshold that now makes California a “red” state for travel.

UNM’s game against San Jose State was originally scheduled to be played in Albuquerque, but on Monday it was relocated to San Jose, California due to the rising prevalence of COVID-19 in Bernalillo County.

At that time, California was considered a “green” state for COVID-19, which would allow the UNM team to travel to San Jose and back without the quarantine requirement. The UNM players and staff are tested for the coronavirus three times per week and have myriad guidelines and protocols for road trips.

The Lobos had their season opener at Colorado State scheduled for Oct. 24 canceled due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Bernalillo County. After the cancellation announcement came on Oct. 20, Nuñez and San Jose State administration worked on relocating the game, among other scenarios, Nuñez said. UNM President Garnett Stokes proved to be the key figure in moving the game to San Jose; she, along with UNM Athletics and SJSU, believed the players could compete safely.

Prior to the Lobos’ season opener against Colorado State being canceled, Nuñez said he believed UNM could safely play. However, the state’s “COVID-Safe Practice for Intercollegiate Sports” guidelines that had made the Lobos exempt from the state’s Public Health Order restrictions required the new cases in Bernalillo County, where UNM is located, to stay below certain thresholds – a 14-day average under 8 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate under 5%.

The Lobos shut down full contact practices per the agreement when the 14-day average grew to 14.1, though the positivity rate was still just 4.7%. Bernalillo County is now at 27.9 cases per 100,000 and at a 7.3% positivity rate.

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