15 Rutgers University Football Players Test Positive for Coronavirus After On-Campus Party: Report
The team halted "all in-person team activities" on Saturday and quarantined their "entire program" after several players tested positive
More than a dozen players on the Rutgers University football team have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) — and the outbreak reportedly stemmed from an on-campus party.
"There’s been an outbreak of Rutgers football players, with 15 of them currently testing positive," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Wednesday during Governor Phil Murphy's press briefing.
Sources with knowledge of the situation told NJ.com that athletes on multiple Rutgers University teams attended an on-campus party.
When reached by PEOPLE on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Rutgers Athletics had no further comment beyond a statement issued Saturday announcing that all team activities would be placed on pause.
Persichilli said the team's outbreak is just one of many examples that account for 125 new cases of the virus in New Jersey.
"We have had several circumstances where indoor and outdoor gatherings in our state have led to community clusters of COVID-19," Persichilli said, giving examples of a graduation party, a Father's Day gathering and others.
"Every single one of those cases has the potential to infect other people. Their grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, love ones, and if any of one of them have underlying conditions … the result could be fatal," she warned.
On Saturday, the Rutgers football team stopped their workouts after 10 players tested positive since returning to campus on June 15, NJ.com reported.
"As a result, we have paused all in-person team activities, quarantined our entire program and will work diligently with Rutgers medical experts, and state and local officials to determine next steps," Rutgers Athletics said in a statement Saturday.
Gov. Murphy told NJ.com Wednesday that the outbreak on the team "had nothing to do with athletic activity."
"I don’t want to get out over my skis here, but I believe that the incidents had nothing to do with athletic activity," he said. "It does not change my personal assessment of whether or not we can go ahead with fall sports. Because I don’t believe it was related to the athletic (activities) side of it. If that’s wrong, I’m sure Rutgers will correct the record."
The outbreak on the Scarlet Knights comes as thousands of COVID-19 cases nationwide have been linked to colleges.
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A survey conducted by the New York Times published Wednesday found that there were more than 630 positive cases on 68 Division I campuses, with athletes, coaches and other staff contracting the virus.
Gov. Murphy had some strong words for people attending large gatherings on Wednesday, revealing that the state has seen more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the last four days.
"We are now back, plus or minus, to where we were roughly a month ago in the daily numbers of new cases," the Democratic governor said, per another NJ.com report. "This is a reason why we have had to hit pause on expanding the restart of more indoor activities, like dining and health clubs, where people are more likely to be indoors for a longer amount of time, not wearing masks, and more likely to be in one place for a longer amount of time."
"I’m not going to say that indoor dining is like a house party, but when one party in an air-conditioned house leads to dozens of new cases, it should give us all pause," he continued. "When there are hundreds of people crammed into a house, where the air-conditioning system is simply blowing the air around, and where people are not wearing masks, you have also invited coronavirus to your party."
Murphy added that while he understands that people want to "blow off some steam" and enjoy summertime activities, "this is no time for anyone to be vying for induction into the Knucklehead Hall of Fame."
As of Wednesday, New Jersey had reported at least 180,766 cases and 13,923 deaths related to COVID-19, according to data from the state's department of health.
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