5 positive COVID tests in tournament bubble so far, NCAA says

Of the 2,300 coronavirus tests that have been conducted so far for the college men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis, five have come back positive, the NCAA said today.

The Indianapolis-based organization declined to share any details about who has tested positive, but stressed daily testing occurs not only for athletes and coaches participating in the tournament, but also for NCAA personnel and support staff.

“There are five positives [but] that should not be assumed to be team personnel, necessarily,” said Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of basketball. “Those test results are inclusive of Tier 2 individuals, which include … NCAA and event staff, as well as the men’s basketball committee.”

Gavitt said the NCAA does not plan to identify the individuals who test positive, nor their association with the tournament; it will share limited information only if a team is eliminated from the tournament through testing. He has previously said a team needs only five healthy players to remain in the tournament, which is operating in a controlled environment among a few hotels and sports venues in the Indianapolis area.

He said the NCAA does not anticipate calling on any of its standby teams to take a spot in the tournament before today’s 6 p.m. deadline. 

Gavitt said 67 teams have gone through initial testing, with Virginia—the remaining team not in Indianapolis—expected to undergo testing later this week. Virginia has not traveled to Indianapolis yet because it is stuck in quarantine after a positive test last week led it to withdraw from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

On Monday, the NCAA acknowledged that six game referees have been removed from working during the tournament after one tested positive for the virus.

CBS Sports reported the referee and five others were permitted to go to a downtown restaurant Sunday night when their hotel rooms were not ready. The five officials that had negative tests were eliminated from the tournament because of contact tracing protocols.

The NCAA has so far declined to share or confirm details about the incident or the officials involved, but Gavitt said four of the officials were replaced with others already on standby. About 60 officials were expected to be used during the tournament—the men’s basketball tournament typically uses about 110 referees.

Gavitt said Tuesday that teams will be able to “extend the controlled environment” to Victory Field over the coming days to enjoy outdoor recreational time and hold team outings. He also said other venues in the city, like the Indianapolis Zoo, might come into play for teams that go further into the tournament.

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