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UNC will start returning student-athletes and staff to campus this week

The Tar Heels will attempt to get things back on track after the 2019-20 athletic season was derailed by COVID-19.

NCAA Football: North Carolina vs Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago the NCAA announced that they would let student-athletes return to campus for voluntary activities. Now that the door is cracked open for sports to return in the fall, UNC has announced their overall plan to get student-athletes across all sports not only back on campus, but hopefully back into competition.

If you would like to read the thorough breakdown of what all is entailed on getting students back to campus safely, you can read UNC’s announcement here. To shorten things up, here’s when each team/staff member will return to campus:

• June 1 — Facilities staff members

• June 8 — Sports Medicine staff

• June 12 — Coaching staffs for Football, Men’s Basketball and Women’s Basketball

• June 12-July 1 — Football student-athletes, in four separate groups (June 12, 19, 26, 29)

• June 15 — Strength and Conditioning, Equipment and Administration staff members

• June 22 — Coaching staffs for Field Hockey, Volleyball, Men’s and Women’s Soccer and Cross Country

• July 6 — Men’s and Women’s Basketball student-athletes

• July 13 — Field Hockey, Volleyball, Men’s and Women’s Soccer and Cross Country student-athletes

• August 3 — Coaches and student-athletes from the remainder of our teams, and remaining department staff members

Before being allowed to return to campus, athletes and staff will have to self-quarantine themselves or practice social distancing for at least a week, and their housing will be arranged as such that players in their respective groups will be living together instead of amongst the general student body. This will be done via off-campus houses and campus residence halls. As far as testing goes, every member of the athletic program will be tested upon arrival to campus, and they must test negative before they can interact wither other student athletes. If they test negative, they will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Aside from the thorough testing and housing precautions in place, the university is recommending all of the standard COVID-19 methods of making sure that they don’t get sick and spread the virus. As for staff, there will also be occupancy limits on the offices, shared spaces, elevators, and restrooms to ensure that they are all working in a safe environment as well. Visitors will not be permitted inside the department facilities until further notice, and employees are not allowed to use indoor training facilities and be used by student-athletes only.

While UNC’s plan to allow student-athletes back on campus is a well thought out and careful plan, it will still be extremely interesting to see how things develop prior to the school season starting. In theory, constant testing and isolating players sounds like a solid way to ensure that anybody that is a part of any of these sports doesn’t contract COVID-19. However, this is foreign territory that we are entering, and as we speak North Carolina as a whole is still gradually re-opening businesses to try to return things as close to normal as possible. Could this work? Absolutely. It unfortunately could also fail spectacularly, and everything in-between.

Regardless, it’s hard to not feel good about the idea of college athletics returning in the fall. With everything that has happened this year so far, I think it’s safe to say that we all could use something to cheer for as a united fan base. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned from the pandemic is that sports are way more powerful than any of us take the time to process sometimes, and if only we had them right now during this tough time, things would likely be at least a little bit better.

What do you think about the precautions that UNC is taking to return student-athletes to campus? Do you feel like it’s too soon, or do you think things will go well with minimal issues? Let us know in the comments below.

Stay safe, love one another, and Go Heels!