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A Clemson - Florida State COVID Timeline: All We Need Is Some Proof

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College Football Playoff National Championship - Media Day Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Since the Clemson - FSU game was postponed on Saturday there has been a lot of information flying around. The idea of a COVID-positive player traveling with the team seemed to send a jolt around college football, especially when the player had symptoms earlier in the week, though he had several negative tests.

Of course, Coach Swinney also jumped into the fray with several comments over the last few days to stir the pot even more. What follows is the best information that we have right now, and it shows that while things aren’t as bad as they initially sounded, there are some holes in the ACC’s COVID guidelines, and Dabo needs to show some actual proof, not just throw allegations out there.

Per David Hood on Tigernet, here is the breakdown of this player’s week

Sunday: Mild symptoms

Monday: Mild symptoms, did not practice, tested negative

Tuesday: No symptoms

Wednesday: No symptoms, tested negative

Thursday: No symptoms, tested negative

Friday: COVID-test administered, traveled with team, positive result returned after team arrived in Tallahassee

Matt Connolly over at The State had a similar but slightly different timeline

Monday: Mild symptoms, did not practice, tested negative

Tuesday: Mild Symptoms, did not practice

Wednesday: Felt better, tested negative, practiced

Thursday: No symptoms, practiced, tested negative

Friday: COVID-test administered, traveled with team, positive result returned after team arrived in Tallahassee, isolated after result became known

These timelines, coupled with some comments by Dabo and others over the weekend, seem to indicate that the player in question practiced with some level of symptoms, but backed up by at least one — if not two — negative tests, depending on the Wednesday timeline. The player would also have been feeling better, so even if he was still symptomatic on Wednesday and practiced, the assumption was that he was getting better and the symptoms were not COVID-related.

One thing that is interesting from these timelines is that the player in question had three negative tests, each administered more than 24 hours apart, before the 4th test came back positive. I mention the three negative tests because that is what the SEC uses to allow players and staff to return after a positive test result if they suspect it to be a false positive. This is what happened with Alabama’s Nick Saban. The theory here is that 3 negative tests spaced out like that is certain enough to show the virus isn’t present.

FSU Protocol

Of course the big pissing match that is now underway is between Dabo and FSU over COVID protocols. We’ve all heard the comments as Dabo has claimed that FSU used COVID as an excuse to cancel the game because they didn’t want to play it. Stunning no one, FSU disagrees with that assessment.

By all accounts Florida State has been more cautious in these situations. Though it has not been confirmed, sources have said that no one has tested positive for COVID at FSU since Mike Norvell did in September. FSU has also made the decision to prevent players and staff who had symptoms from traveling, even with a negative test.

This isn’t to say Clemson isn’t following protocol. Everything the Tigers have done has either met or exceeded the ACC protocol; FSU just has a stricter standard that they are following.

This was likely to happen. The ACC decided in their infinite wisdom to pass the responsibility of playing to the member institutions. Add in the decision to make the COVID protocols a “minimum standard” instead of an actual standard, and it is a recipe for a game to get cancelled because of a disagreement between medical personnel. Rather than put together a full set of guidelines with the expectation that meeting them would be enough to play, the conference punted.

With a pandemic going on, issuing vague medical guidelines is definitely a smart idea. There is no mention of how to deal with symptomatic players who then test negative, even though there are known issues with false negative rates on COVID-19 tests. There is also no protocol for how to handle players with symptoms and negative tests and traveling to away games. We’ve already seen Clemson and FSU have differing opinions on if this is acceptable. There are likely other schools in the ACC with other thoughts on the matter. If the goal is to play football in a safe manner and reduce the risk of COVID transmission, it seems like all of this should have been hashed out at the beginning, not swept under the rug and left alone until it happened.

But if Dabo is going to make this claim that FSU for non-COVID reasons, he has to provide proof. You don’t get to go out on a national platform and make this claim without evidence. So far he hasn’t provided any actual examples that involve a symptomatic player practicing, traveling to an away game, and then testing positive. His one claim involving Pitt and a positive case after traveling has been debunked. The player in question did not travel to Florida State for the game, Pitt only releases COVID numbers on Saturday, regardless of when the positive test results. And Dabo’s example of Trevor Lawrence isn’t a similar comparison. From what we have been told Lawrence never practiced while experiencing symptoms. And he never got on the bus, flew, and ended up in the hotel to arrive at the game.

As of today all we have are allegations by Dabo that this has happened elsewhere. And even once we get examples of it happening, we need proof that FSU has actually changed their protocol ahead of the Clemson game. If FSU has held this stricter standard throughout the season, then Dabo’s claims are false. It is FSU’s prerogative to have stricter standards for COVID protocols than what the ACC has, something that is specifically allowed for in the ACC protocols. If Dabo wants to complain about that he should direct his ire at the ACC instead of FSU.