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Editorial: UCLA threatens student safety with lack of updates on health of student-athletes

By Editorial Board

Aug. 10, 2020 5:22 p.m.

A number of questions still need answering as UCLA steadily approaches the upcoming academic and athletic year.

Currently, UCLA Athletics only notes positive cases on UCLA’s official COVID-19 tracker, which does not distinguish between student-athletes and other students on campus. Beyond that, administrators have left the UCLA community to hear key COVID-19 developments secondhand. It was the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, not UCLA administrators, who reported that eight football players tested positive for COVID-19. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that football coach Chip Kelly contracted the virus in March.

With thousands converging on Westwood in a few short weeks, administrators must assure students they will do more than add a tick to the COVID-19 tracker.

The school’s unwillingness to share information about the UCLA football outbreak does not bode well for the season – or the coming academic year. Administrators’ lackluster efforts at communication keep students returning to Westwood in the dark when it comes to detailed, accurate information that can help them make the best possible risk assessments for living arrangements.

This uncertainty comes at the same time that UCLA announced about 8% of courses in the fall will have in-person or hybrid instruction. Furthermore, daily symptom checks and asymptomatic COVID-19 testing will now be required for students who come to campus or live in university housing.

The measures sound great in theory, but the university’s recent failures negate any benefits. UCLA had the chance to prove it could keep its students safe on a smaller-scale – and an outbreak still flared up. Worse still, their failure was treated as a secret rather than a learning opportunity.

The bottom line is that UCLA’s lack of transparency threatens the health and safety of its students. Student-athletes are obviously uneasy with the upcoming season – and they shouldn’t have to draft letters and petitions or threaten to boycott the season just to ensure their personal safety.

Of course, the school has strived to provide solutions for its students and has worked with its student-athletes, especially those in UCLA football. Players quarantined upon arrival and were subject to coronavirus testing. The NCAA also recently released new COVID-19 safety guidelines for fall sports.

But it’s difficult to look at the return of fall sports optimistically when Bruins hear about crucial efforts in unsteady drips from external sources.

NCAA divisions must determine the status of fall championships no later than Aug. 21, and football games are scheduled to start Sept. 26. The announcement of positive tests within UCLA football should serve as an alarming wake-up call to the administration. It must now decide if student safety is worth jeopardizing.

Time is running out. Not just for the status of the season – but for UCLA to answer to its student body.

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