Syracuse, N.Y. – Syracuse played a men’s basketball game against Niagara on Thursday night in the Carrier Dome. But neither Buddy Boeheim nor four other players were allowed to participate. One of them tested positive for Covid-19 last week; the others were considered close contacts and will need to quarantine for 14 days.
In his postgame remarks, SU coach Jim Boeheim characterized the person who tested positive as an SU walk-on. The university does not publicly identify players who test positive for Covid.
The last time a player and Jim Boeheim registered positive tests, the Orange was required to pause its basketball program while the positive cases spent 10 days in isolation and everybody else served a 14-day quarantine. This time, SU was able to use data collected from its wearable, wristwatch-like devices to convince Onondaga County Health Department officials to direct into quarantine only the people identified by the data as close contacts.
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon visited the Melo Center two weeks ago to examine the devices and inspect the data. After that trip, he said the data from those devices would be suitable for contact tracing going forward.
A week after SU ended its initial quarantine and played a game, another positive Covid test was made public in the Orange program.
Jim Boeheim said after the most recent positive test was found, the SU program paused again for three days; during that period information likely was extracted from the devices, examined for contact tracing purposes and a decision was made about who could play.
Buddy Boeheim, he said, was close to the infected person for fewer than 15 minutes but for more than 10 minutes. New York, Boeheim said, considers anybody within six feet of someone infected with Covid for 10 minutes a close contact.
The CDC has recently reduced its recommended quarantine period for close contacts from 14 days to seven days; Boeheim said New York still requires a 14-day quarantine. That quarantine period will likely cause Buddy Boeheim to miss three games. He has already spent time in quarantine during SU’s first pause.
“I’m not just his coach, I’m his father,” Jim Boeheim said. “He’s dying at home not being able to be here. He’s worked hard all year, has stayed away from everything, has had no positive tests. And he wasn’t scrimmaging, he was near a guy.”
How SU relayed to Niagara its method of determining who would be able to play in the game and who must isolate or quarantine wasn’t clear Thursday night. Niagara coach Greg Paulus told reporters on his post-game Zoom call that he learned of the positive test in the SU program minutes before the game. SU announced a the new positive case in the program at 6:18 p.m. Thursday (the game started at 8).
Niagara recently completed its own pause after a positive test in its program.
“I just found out about it a couple of minutes before the game so I wasn’t aware of the specifics behind it,” Paulus said. “I was, I’m trying to think how many minutes were on the clock, but it was just shared when the starting lineups were coming and we were going through the matchups.
“That’s when I found out officially that Buddy (Boeheim) wasn’t going to play, and at that point we’re addressing our team and I was just trying to make sure that ‘Hey, who’s gonna start, who’s gonna match up.’ But I did have our trainer come over and said that there were conversations from the appropriate people, and that the game was still good to go. So I just followed that conversation.”
Jim Boeheim pleaded for more lenient quarantine protocols after the Bryant game, saying that SU should be able to lean on its wearable devices to determine who constituted a close contact. The county executive had already said if anybody in the SU program (men or women) tested positive going forward, the wearable devices would be used for contact tracing. This time, SU was allowed to separate the rest of the team from the positive player and his close contacts and play a basketball game.
“It is what it is and we have to live with it,” Boeheim said. “We have to get ready each game, whoever’s here. We’ve already lost two starters, Bourama (Sidibe, out with knee surgery) and now Buddy.”
Jim Boeheim credited Ryan McMahon and Dr. Indu Gupta, the Onondaga County Commissioner of Health, for helping SU sort out its isolation and quarantine issues after its positive cases. Boeheim said the school has conducted more than 600 coronavirus tests of its basketball players; those tests turned up two positive cases among players.
His team, he said, has missed 17 days of practice in 20 days since it first paused all basketball activity on Nov. 15.
“It’s very hard,” he said, “to get your team to where you want it to be.”
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Donna Ditota is a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard and Syracuse.com. Got a comment or idea for a story? Reach her at [email protected].