University of Michigan athletics to shut down for 14 days because of COVID-19 variant

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan athletics will shut down for the 14 days beginning Sunday because of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, which transmits more easily and can lead to more positive cases.

That’s in accordance with an order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services made Saturday, the Michigan athletic department said in a release. There have been positive cases of the COVID-19 variant from “numerous individuals across different teams,” according to an athletic department spokesman.

Michigan athletics will shut down for the next 14 days beginning Sunday because of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, which transmits more easily.

All sports in season, including men’s and women’s basketball, will be affected, including practices, training sessions and games. The shutdown is until further notice and up to 14 days. Athletes, coaches and team staff had to isolate starting Saturday until further notice, up to 14 days, according to the Michigan release.

It is unclear how the pause will affect scheduled games beyond Feb. 7.

"Canceling competitions is never something we want to do, but with so many unknowns about this variant of COVID-19, we must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools," Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement Saturday night.

There were 22 COVID-19 positive results for student-athletes last week, according to data released by the athletic department on Friday. There were 2,240 athletes, coaches and staff members tested during that span, but there were no positive results among the coaches/staff.

The University of Michigan is located in Washtenaw County, which is warning residents who visited Briarwood Mall or Meijer on Ann Arbor-Saline Road of possible exposure to the COVID-19 variant. The health department news release confirmed five cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which transmits more easily.

According to the release, UM public health officials are working with the Washtenaw County Health Department and Michigan Department of Human Health Services on  mitigation strategies to address the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant in the university community.

The women’s basketball team postponed two consecutive conference games last month due to COVID-19-related concerns within the program. The issues occurred after a Dec. 9 contest against Butler, when the Bulldogs paused team activities the following day after a positive test.

The men’s basketball team opted to play its scheduled game at Purdue on Friday night, despite a Boilermaker — starting guard Sasha Stefanovic — testing positive a day before the game.

Over the next two weeks, the women’s basketball team is scheduled to play six games — vs. Purdue (Sunday), at Michigan State (Tuesday), vs. Michigan State (Thursday), at Rutgers (Feb. 1), vs. Minnesota (Feb. 4) and vs. Maryland (Feb. 7) — and the men’s team four games — at Penn State (Wednesday), vs. Indiana (Jan. 30), at Northwestern (Feb. 3) and vs. Michigan State (Feb. 6).

The men’s basketball team is 13-1 and alone in first place in the Big Ten at 8-1. The women’s team is 10-1 overall — highlighted by a program-best 10-0 start — and 5-1 in conference play.

Michigan’s football team canceled its final three games last season because of a COVID-19 outbreak. Last July, the athletic department briefly suspended voluntary summer workouts in four sports — swimming and diving, field hockey, volleyball and ice hockey.

Staff writer James Hawkins contributed.

Twitter: @chengelis