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At least 18 Illinois football players tested positive for COVID-19 since returning to campus in June

At least 18 Illinois football players tested positive for COVID-19 since returning for workouts in June, the school announced Monday.

Twenty-three athletes in all and two staff members tested positive, according to a university news release that said the 100-plus football players on campus “accounted for greater than 75% of the positive tests.”

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Illinois said it has tested 164 athletes weekly since they returned in stages for voluntary workouts this summer, with more than 1,200 tests administered. The school said the overall positive test rate was less than 1.9%.

Four athletes experienced symptoms but none required hospitalization, according to the university.

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Three cases remain active, and those players as well as teammates they’ve come in contact with remain in quarantine. Twelve athletes tested positive upon their return to campus.

Illinois will not release the number of quarantined players, an athletic department spokesman said.

Illinois did not suspend workouts at any time.

“Following our contract tracing and isolation quarantine protocols developed with our campus and community partners, individuals who needed to be quarantined were isolated and we didn’t feel the need to shut down workouts,” an Illinois spokesman said in an email response to the Tribune.

Northwestern confirmed Monday it has suspended football workouts until at least Wednesday after one player tested positive and others were placed in quarantine after contact tracing.

Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State, Rutgers and Maryland have suspended workouts at various times this summer after positive tests. The entire Michigan State team quarantined after 16 positive cases.

More than 90 college football programs have had at least one positive test, according to reports.

NCAA rules allow teams to begin contact practices Friday, but skepticism is mounting about the feasibility of pulling off a season, especially after outbreaks in Major League Baseball.

Illinois running back Ra’Von Bonner has opted out of playing this season, telling the Tribune last month that he did not want to risk his health and that his worries increased as he saw teammates test positive.

Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley became the most high-profile player to opt out of the 2020 season over coronavirus concerns. The All-ACC cornerback detailed a lack of safety protocols in a first-person account published in Peter King’s Football Morning in America column.

A group of Pac-12 players has threatened to boycott the season unless they see improved safety measures, among other demands. Former NFL star Chris Hinton and former Northwestern basketball player Mya Hinton, whose sons play at Michigan and Stanford, started a parent advocacy group to raise concerns about the return to competition amid a pandemic.

The Big Ten announced in early July it is moving to a conference-only schedule to provide wiggle room in the case of cancellations and to ensure similar safety protocols.

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Most of the athletes who returned to Illinois in June play football, women’s soccer, volleyball or basketball. More than 100 football players returned to campus.

“There is no evidence that any of the positive transmissions came through athletic activities or by the use of campus athletics facilities,” the Illinois release said. “The (athletic department) and its sports medicine staff have followed strict protocols and testing procedures developed in consultation with campus and community partners.”

Illinois listed the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, Illinois McKinley Health Center, Carle Health System and the University’s SHIELD group as entities guiding its decisions along with national and state health officials and NCAA and Big Ten administrators.

The two positive tests for staff members were among 420 tests administered to staff who interact with athletes.

When Illinois announced its plan in late spring to bring athletes back to campus, it said it would not release data on positive coronavirus tests. Every Big Ten football program has reported at least one positive test, according to the Buffalo News.

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