With COVID-19 variant positives, Michigan pauses athletics

Midwest

FILE- In a Dec. 18, 2020 file photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Robert Gordon addresses the state in Lansing, Mich. On Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 Gordon resigned his position. He made the announcement without explanation Friday, just hours after signing a revised order to allow restaurants to resume indoor dining on Feb. 1. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, File)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The entire University of Michigan athletic department is pausing after several positive tests for the new COVID-19 variant that transmits at a higher rate.

The state Department of Health and Human Services issued the mandate Saturday, with the school saying it follows the positive COVID-19 tests for several individuals linked to the athletic department. The entire department could be in quarantine for two weeks.

Purdue guard Jaden Ivey (23) shoots over Michigan forward Isaiah Livers (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The 11th-ranked women’s basketball team was set to play at home against Purdue on Sunday. That was one of four athletic events the school had scheduled. The men’s tennis team was hosting a tournament while women’s tennis was in Atlanta. The men’s gymnastics event at Nebraska was also postponed.

The seventh-ranked men’s basketball team wasn’t supposed to play until Wednesday at Penn State.

“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,” athletic director Warde Manuel said.

Michigan said it was worked diligently within state and Big Ten guidelines, but the state’s HHS department is mandating a more aggressive strategy for the new variant.

Michigan’s men’s basketball team leads the Big Ten and had four games scheduled in the next two weeks, including a big rivalry game against Michigan State on Feb. 6.

The women’s team currently has its highest AP ranking ever. Ohio State handed the Wolverines their first loss of the season Thursday despite 50 points by Michigan’s Naz Hillmon. The Wolverines were supposed to play six games between now and Feb. 7, including two against Michigan State.

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