Fairfield inn

The Fairfield Inn on E. State Street.

Editor's note: A previous version of the article stated only the men's basketball team was staying at the hotel. In fact, members of both the men's and women's teams are staying at the Fairfield Inn, an OU spokesperson said in an email Thursday.

Ohio University has moved some members of the men's and women's basketball team to an Athens hotel in order to contain spread of the coronavirus, according to the university.

The OU men's team gained national attention last year when they upset reigning champion Virginia in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. This year’s team boasts a 13-2 record and is undefeated at home.

Players who usually live on campus are staying at the Fairfield Inn on East State Street. It is not clear what the coronavirus testing regimen is for those staying in the hotel.

The move is intended to control spread of coronavirus on the team, Ohio University spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said.

“As a temporary measure, basketball student-athletes living in university residence halls were moved (to a hotel) to help mitigate the risk of disease during their season,” Leatherwood said in an email. “It is important to note these student-athletes have been relatively isolated and already following COVID protocols during the winter break, and we’re hoping to keep them on track through the influx of cases we are seeing.”

The cost for hotel expenses comes from the Inter-Collegiate Athletics budget, Leatherwood said. The men’s basketball team spent $3.11 million in fiscal year 2020, according to the Ohio auditor's website. Inter-Collegiate Athletics' 2022 budget line is $18,228,866 — 8% of total university expenses -- according to the university's budget book.

Team members residing at the hotel will continue to follow all Mid-American Conference and NCAA COVID protocols as well as the campus protocols for off-campus students, Leatherwood said.

Last week, the university announced mandatory weekly asymptomatic testing for all students living in university housing and student members of fraternities and sororities, regardless of vaccination status. OU already required weekly testing for students and employees who received exemptions from the university's vaccination requirement and new students and employees who have not yet completed vaccination or received exemptions.

Off-campus students are not required to be tested weekly.

The Mid-American Conference, however, requires all unvaccinated student athletes to test negative on one PCR test 72 hours prior to competition or travel — or three antigen tests with the third 48 hours prior to competition or travel, Leatherwood said.

The MAC testing policy for vaccinated athletes, including whether vaccinated athletes must test before games, is not clear. MAC spokesperson Jeremy Guy did not provide a current copy of the testing protocols for MAC sports, and instead directed The Athens NEWS to Ohio University Athletics. 

MAC student athletes who are returning to competition after a positive test must take a Binax test on day six, and OU COVID Operations requires everyone to wear a mask until day 10 at all times, Leatherwood said.

In December, the MAC announced that it has modified its 2021-22 COVID-19 rescheduling policy to require a minimum of seven scholarship student-athletes and one coach to play men’s and women’s basketball games. If a team does not have the necessary number of participants and elects not to play, and the game cannot be rescheduled, the game will be registered as a no contest.

Athens County has nearly 3,000 active cases of COVID as of Monday, the Athens City-County Health Department reports. The county's 13.2% test positivity rate, though, lags neighboring counties, which range from 22.6% in Vinton County to 38.7% in Morgan County, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

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