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The Alligator Army Weekly Open Thread, Vol. CIX

The road to a full college football season in 2020 is a long one, precarious at every step.

Capital One Orange Bowl - Virginia v Florida
We’re not even close to here yet.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Florida Gators updated the world on their initial efforts to bring back athletes in advance of the 2020-21 athletic year. The early results? So far, so good.

During Phase 1, no athletes are allowed facility access until being tested for COVID, with results taking about 36 hours. They also will undergo routine physical exams. Currently, about 10 to 15 athletes are being processed per day. As of Tuesday, 80 football players had been tested, with no positive results.

This, obviously, is the headline. And it’s great news, though it’s probably limited to athletes who currently have COVID-19, as there’s no indication anywhere in the story that these tests were of the serologic tests to determine whether those players have developed antibodies for the virus after previously being infected.

The same “This is good, but...” assessment goes for this:

Since the COVID outbreak, only two UF athletes have tested positive for the virus, with both of those instances occurring during quarantine. The first occurred in April, the second more recently with an out-of-town athlete.

A player getting COVID-19 in April — and possibly in Gainesville, given the way that paragraph is written — got it fairly early on in its spread beyond the hotspots in the United States; that only one player got it so early is encouraging. But a player catching it “more recently” and after months have elapsed in getting citizens of Earth used to personal protective equipment, upgraded hygiene, and social distancing is obviously a bit more worrisome: It’s a reminder that this virus absolutely isn’t going away.

And, moreover, it should be a reminder that the only “perfect” defense against the virus is going to be absolute, unbroken quarantine — the kind that, if college football is going to practice it for an entire fall season, is going to require the efforts of thousands of people for a period of several months. Every deviation from that — whether it’s a late-night Tinder hookup, an unmasked midday run to Pizza Hut, a visit from a family who hasn’t been quarantining, an interaction with a cop, or what have you — increases the risk involved in the entire enterprise, with some obviously producing far bigger bumps than others.

The United States populace could barely get through two months of quarantine without itching to be freed from restrictions so badly that the bandages were ripped off, hair and all. The United States populace is also comprised of people who typically have a lot more discipline — and fewer time-limited opportunities for fun — than 18-to-22-year-old men, even if those men are also working a job that instills and requires discipline. If college football actually tries an isolation strategy this fall (or next winter and spring), which is still the most morally defensible one, total compliance and success would be the greatest achievement by any team in the sport in my lifetime.

More likely, I think, is an excellent but imperfect quarantine, with excellent but imperfect testing and treatment, and risks that must be weighed against rewards — by athletic directors and outside linebackers both. More likely than no cases? Some cases — maybe a few, not a lot — and some serious ones.

And what if Kyle Trask catches COVID the week of the LSU game? What if a defensive unit that hangs out playing 2K21 together all falls ill at the same times? What if, Tebow forbid, some Florida Gator who is hale and healthy and quarantining with their family right now ends up with a severe case of coronavirus because of things they are doing to fulfill their part of an athletic scholarship?

Right now, we’re walking a tightrope toward an outcome we want.

But we haven’t even made it fully through the first steps, and there are miles and miles before us.