COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio state football doesn’t publicly release its coronavirus testing numbers, but I’ve always wondered if state health officials are at least getting them. Gov. Mike DeWine said he was unaware that the state was obtaining this information from the large-scale tests performed on asymptomatic athletes currently participating in voluntary training on the state campus of the Ohio.
“I would like them to disclose them (publicly). I wish they did, ”DeWine told me in a phone interview this weekend.
Ohio state soccer players began voluntary training on June 8, while men’s and women’s basketball began on June 15 and four other sports on June 22. All sports stopped training on July 8 after an undisclosed number of positive tests. The athletes were retested on July 13 and training was allowed to resume on July 14.
DeWine said he had no reason to believe that the test results of Ohio State varsity athletes would be any different from any group of people in their late teens and early 20s. This is something I have discussed a lot – it does not appear that voluntary training itself poses huge risks of the spread of the coronavirus. But being in the world at that age could be.
This is exactly why OSU sharing these test results could serve the public good. As DeWine pointed out, the Ohio State numbers are folded into the General Condition numbers, so they’re counted. But a specific positivity rate when testing young people who don’t show symptoms may be a window into how the virus is spreading or not spreading in Ohio.
“It would be invaluable information,” DeWine said. “I guess I didn’t think about the fact that they hadn’t disclosed this information.”
No school publishes the names of athletes who test positive, and no one asks. This is an obvious privacy issue. The state of Ohio’s statement on its decision is that it believes releasing the numbers could lead to the identification of individual athletes, although it is not clear how that would turn out.
The discussion continues throughout college football as the media pushes for transparency and schools search for rules to be enforced at all levels. Former Ohio State President Michael Drake during his testimony to Congress three weeks ago said, “I think it’s appropriate for schools to report cases,” so even that the state of Ohio was not. Now the state governor is saying the same thing.
DeWine asked me if other schools publicly release numbers, and I told him that many do. An Associated Press survey last month found that about half of the schools in the Power Conference were releasing numbers. Conference mandates would put things on a level playing field, but that has yet to happen. But all over the state of Ohio, schools like Michigan, Michigan, Indiana, Notre Dame and Kentucky are reporting the numbers, while the Buckeyes test and keep the results to themselves. For example, Michigan reported Friday that 121 athletes and coaches were tested in the last round, with four positive results. Overall, Michigan performed 635 tests on players and staff, with eight positive results.
I asked DeWine if he had told the state of Ohio that he would like to see the numbers.
“I probably will,” he said.
Ohio state’s plan to resume training, including athletes signing a “Buckeye Pledge” that some viewed more as a waiver, was complete. The Buckeyes described strict guidelines, demanded adherence to social distancing, hand washing, cleaning and sanitizing protocols, and appeared to take all aspects of the coronavirus fight seriously. The state of Ohio, with vast resources and vast reasons to keep gamers healthy (like millions in TV income), could be a model of smart virus protection. The Buckeyes could be a leader in the fight.
If only they would show us and the governor exactly how it’s going.
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