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Lobo football mulls options beyond California

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)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico football team continues with its plan to travel to San Jose State for its season opener and is expecting to finalize an itinerary on Friday to safely navigate a path that would give the Lobos the opportunity to also play at Hawaii on Nov. 7, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said on Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, California moved to the restricted list for travel with regard to COVID-19. That complicated the Lobos’ plans because they would be required to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Albuquerque.

Hawaii is currently not on the restricted travel list.

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 on Wednesday.

The UNM football team has had 660 tests for COVID-19 since last week with zero positive cases. The Lobos went through testing again on Thursday morning and expected results early Friday morning. If the results don’t go over a 7.5% positivity rate, they’ll leave for San Jose in the afternoon.

On Saturday night after the game, they’ll travel back to Albuquerque and will go through testing again on Sunday morning.

From that point, the team will either go into quarantine (which would lead to a cancellation of its game against Hawaii); possibly receiving the OK from the Governor’s office to practice in Albuquerque and prepare to play at Hawaii (highly unlikely); or leaving the state again to practice elsewhere next week.

“We have not finalized the official plans yet,” Nuñez told the Journal. “The plans probably won’t be solidified until (Friday).”

The Lobos go through testing for COVID-19 three times per week, through Mountain West Conference protocol.

Nuñez said he has been impressed with all the players and staff testing negative over the past week. UNM has seemingly recovered from having eight players test positive on Oct. 14. One other player tested positive the following week.

Those nine players went into isolation for 10 days. Eight of the players are now out of isolation and have gone through other tests, including those dealing with the heart, and they can now return to activities, Nuñez said. The one other player remains in isolation. That player is expected to return to activities next week.

In addition, at least 10 other players went into quarantine due to contact tracing. About a handful of those players remain in quarantine and can possibly rejoin the team with negative test results on Friday, but likely will not travel with the team. The quarantined players are not required to have additional tests for clearance.

All of the players who were in isolation or quarantined have not experienced any symptoms and none has tested positive again for COVID-19, Nuñez said.

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

California 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.

The Lobos will have myriad guidelines and protocols for road trips. They will have 74 players on the trip, part of a traveling party of 115.

UNM had its season opener at Colorado State scheduled for Oct. 24 canceled due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Bernalillo County. Prior to that game 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 to stay below a 14-day average under 8 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate under 5%.

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