Remember when LSU coach Ed Orgeron said before the season that everything was good because most of his team already had COVID-19?
BATON ROUGE — The way LSU football coach Ed Orgeron described his team's health before this season in September, one did not expect a COVID-19 outbreak during this season.
"Most, not all, but most of our players have caught it," Orgeron said on Sept. 15 — 11 days before the opening of the 2020 season. "Most of the players that have caught it, we feel that they'll be available for games. Hopefully, once you catch it, you don't get it again, and hopefully they're not out for a game."
Not so fast.
Because of COVID-19, LSU's game against No. 1 Alabama last Saturday was postponed, possibly to Dec. 5, pending a decision by the SEC office by Nov. 30.
LSU entered this week with enough available players to well exceed the 53-man scholarship roster minimum required by the SEC's COVID-19 protocols that it fell under last week, Orgeron said.
The Tigers (2-3) are scheduled to play at Arkansas (3-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network. The Arkansas team is experiencing COVID-19 issues, but as of Wednesday the game is on. Only two non-coaching staff members and one player tested positive at Arkansas, but the more important figure, as Orgeron learned, is the number of players quarantined and going through contact tracing — not the number of players with COVID-19.
Orgeron thought the worst of COVID was over for his team when he made those comments in September because most of the team had already had it, not unlike a mother purposefully letting one of her children give the measles to the others so they all have it at the same time.
But SEC protocols call for all players — even if they previously had COVID — who come "within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period" to be quarantined and take part in contact tracing.
"I'll say last week most of our guys that weren’t able to play was because of quarantine and contact tracing," Orgeron said Monday. "It wasn't because the number of guys who had COVID."
Orgeron said only a few players tested positive.
When asked if he and his program, including the football team's medical staff, got lax as it entered the season because so many players already had contracted and recovered from the virus, Orgeron said, "No, not at all, No."
Asked if any players have had COVID twice, he said, "I can't speak to that."
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said LSU continued to test aggressively and be overly cautious after "most" of the team had it.
"We're not having a serious outbreak now," he said last week on 104.5 Radio in Baton Rouge despite some reports to the contrary. "What's happening now is contact tracing and isolation is the problem. We're not getting infections. We're not spreading because of the quarantine."
The few players who did have COVID last week were not overly ill.
"Our kids are having mild symptoms," Woodward said. "They're just like their demographic — young people are asymptomatic. That's not the issue. The issue now is how much spreading is going into the country. That's where the concern is with the public officials. There is a huge spike going on nationally. There is a serious spike happening in cases."
"But we're not having any serious problems, and we've done really, really rigorous screening all the way to cardiology as well as pulmonology," Woodward said. "Right now, the symptoms are minimal."
Most of the LSU players who would not have been available for a game last Saturday have returned to practice.
"We have most of our team back," Orgeron said Wednesday morning on the SEC teleconference. "We had a great practice yesterday. We'll be ready to play."
But Orgeron has learned everything can change very quickly with COVID-19.
"This thing is very fluid," he said. "It can change every day."