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UNC Charlotte identifies COVID-19 cluster within men's basketball team

All individuals involved are isolating with "proper medical care" and the contact tracing team at UNCC is working on notifying people who may need to quarantine.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has confirmed a cluster of COVID-19 cases has been identified in its athletics department. Seven cases of COVID-19 involving student-athletes and staff were confirmed within the men's basketball team.

“It happens with every team even like in professional sports, so I’m not surprised, but I’m more concerned about how this happened,” said Mosaab Omar, a master’s student.

All individuals involved are isolating with "proper medical care" and the contact tracing team at UNCC is working on notifying any members of the UNCC community who may have been impacted.

Wednesday was supposed to be the team's first official practice. 

The cluster was discovered through regular testing required by Conference USA and self-reporting of symptoms through the Niner Health Check. 

University officials wouldn’t specify how many of the cases are student-athletes and how many are staff members.

Men’s basketball players were allowed back on campus for voluntary workouts on June 15. 

Over the past few weeks, they've been working out in the weight room and have had some on-court workouts. University officials say they're following the NCAA rules and have a maximum of 12 hours of contact a week.

The women’s basketball coach Cara Consuegra saying this is probably not the last time a sports team will have positive cases.

“You can follow the protocols and your kids can do everything right and somehow it gets to one person,” said Consuegra. “Especially coming from a coaching standpoint, you're just constantly preaching to your players you have to make sacrifices and you can't do certain things. And even when they do those things, you can still pick it up at the grocery store or from a classmate or whatever."

The basketball team’s schedule hasn't been set in stone yet but the NCAA just approved November 25th as the first possible date for games. That's when Thanksgiving break starts and UNCC students will not be allowed back on campus for classes after that.

A UNCC spokesperson says the basketball players live both on and off-campus, some with students who aren't on the team. They're working on contact tracing to find out if anyone else on campus could have been exposed.

"It's a little bit worrying. I'm a T.A. too so being around students it is a little nerve-wracking but we're doing good about washing our hands and keeping our masks on so I’m confident we can get our stuff together,” said Nikkie Karimian, a junior.
This is the second cluster associated with UNCC. Back in early September, 8 students living together off-campus tested positive.

"We really have to take this more seriously. I know a lot of people were partying still,” said Junior Cody Pennell.

Football players and staff have also had to quarantine and so far, they've played 3 out of 5 games on the schedule.

A few days after returning to campus for in-person classes, the university detected COVID in the wastewater system of one of the dorms. They tested 155 students and less than 1% of them came back positive.

This cluster made some students wonder how the university will manage to have the entire student population back at once.

“I think even mid-year that would be pretty tough,” said Youssaf Amer, a sophomore.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines a cluster as five or more cases with either "illness onsets" or positive test results within a 14-day period and a plausible link between the cases when no potential source of exposure is more likely.

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