Saturday's football season opener between the California Golden Bears and Washington Huskies has been canceled after a Cal player tested positive for COVID-19 and several teammates were placed into quarantine as possible close contacts, the school announced Thursday.
"Cal Athletics followed guidance from University Health Services Infection Control and Berkeley Public Health on contact tracing, quarantining, symptom monitoring and treatment," the school said in a statement. "As a result, several football student-athletes are in quarantine due to contact tracing."
The City of Berkeley Public Health Department requires any individual who came in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 to quarantine at their home or another residence for 14 days, which casts doubt over the Bears' ability to play on Nov. 14 at Arizona State.
"I wish I knew," Cal coach Justin Wilcox said on the likelihood they will be able to play against ASU. "This is not my decision. It's not a Cal football, it's certainly not our players' decision. It'll be determined through the public health office at Berkeley and the contact tracing and if those are players who are negative are allowed to come back and join us."
The player who tested positive is a lineman, multiple sources told ESPN, though it is unclear on which side of the ball. Either way, with his entire position group unavailable, Cal was unable to play.
"It's [a position group] that you can't play a game without," Wilcox said.
Wilcox made it clear the determination from Berkeley Public Health to place the entire position group in quarantine, plus others as close contacts, was a frustrating call because he believed the team took every step to prevent possible close contact designations.
"We built things with that in mind, position drills, team drills," Wilcox said. "So again, that's where I think part of this is tough to swallow because the players and our athletic department, coaches, everybody tried to do the best we can with the information we had. And unfortunately, it didn't quite do the job because they still were contact-traced. They don't talk to us about those specific scenarios."
Other than the one confirmed positive, who remains asymptomatic, all of the players in quarantine have continued to test negative for the virus, Wilcox said.
A spokesman for Berkeley Public Health told ESPN the negative test results do not allow someone to exit the quarantine protocol because the incubation period for COVID-19 is believed to be 14 days.
"The reason that the 14-day quarantine exists is that's the amount of time over which somebody could develop the disease," Matthai Chakko, a spokesman for Berkeley Public Health, told ESPN. "[A negative test] doesn't cure somebody's COVID-19 and it doesn't remove the chance that the virus may appear. That's what the quarantine order is based on."
The start of the quarantine can vary from player to player, depending on when they were determined to be close contacts of the player who is confirmed positive, and the school is working to understand how the orders are applied on a case-to-case basis.
According to Chakko, the health department made its determinations for who had to be placed into quarantine based on interviews with those in the football program.
"We do interviews with the [person who tests positive], who that person was with for how much time and under what conditions," Chakko said. "And based on those interviews, you start to determine who you do other interviews with and you determine how much time they were with each person and whether that matches public health thresholds."
Wilcox said he is unsure if there is a pathway for any of his players to be removed from quarantine, based on the existing information the school has received from the public health office, and he outlined some of the steps the school took to provide a safe return-to-play atmosphere.
"We built this entire process with the help of our sports medical staff and our university around the guidelines that we had coming in from the state and the local public health authority to mitigate (a) the risk and the virus, which we all take seriously, and (b) the contact tracing," Wilcox said. "When they walk to the stadium, there's dots that they stand on before they get their tests. When we have meetings, we're in the concourse and they sit six feet apart.
"When they go to the field, they don't go to the locker room. They have their pads on the side, we don't have shared water bottles. So, there's all these steps that have been taken based on the guidelines given by the state and local public health authority to mitigate the risk and also the contact tracing element. And, unfortunately, that wasn't quite enough. So we will wait to hear more, either tomorrow or through the weekend based on their availability."
The game will be declared a no contest, per Pac-12 policy.