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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Transcript: UCLA Return to Training – Media Q&A

Here is the transcript from the media Q&A portion of the UCLA Return to Training virtual press conference.
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Here is the Q&A portion of the UCLA Return to Training virtual press conference which included members of the media as well as members of the UCLA athletic department including Shana Wilson (Senior Associate Athletic Director for Communications), Dr. David McAllister (Head Team Physician),  Mark Pocinich (Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine), Matt Elliott (Senior Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations), Derek Doolittle (Associate Athletic Director of Facilities Operations and Capital Projects), and Erin Adkins (Associate Athletic Director for Compliance).

Go HERE to read the transcript from the first part of the virtual press conference.

Ben Bolch: Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times. How many athletes in total are expected Monday and how many football players? And the further breakdown? How many of them have all these are expected to be housed on campus in some capacity?

Matt Elloitt: Ben, thank you for that question. So we’re still collecting those numbers. As we told you, the meetings with the teams took place this week. So Wednesday, Thursday, and then even additional meetings yesterday. And the message to all of our student-athletes was take the time to think through whether this is the right decision for you. Consult with your parents and if you’re ready to move back onto campus, you’ll be able to do that as soon as Sunday. But if you’re not ready on Sunday, and you want to come at some other point during the week or later in this group, you’d be welcome to do that as well. So we just don’t have those numbers for you yet. Once we know them, we’ll certainly be willing to share and Erin, can you just talk briefly about how we’re set up for housing to welcome students back if they choose to come into the dorms or university apartments?

Erin Adkins: Yes, thank you Matt. Our football student-athletes will be housed on campus. They will be housed in one of two locations, dorms and or apartments and as I said earlier, they will be in a single occupancy room. Their housing is ready through great partnership and great work with residential life. Housing is ready for the totality of them to arrive on Sunday, but they also know that they will be fluid in their arrival will be staggered throughout the coming weeks.

Tony SiracusaTony Siracusa for Last Word on College Football. You talked about consultation with other people other medical teams. They’re been schools that have been open since June 1, and I guess this is really directed at Matt Elliott, and there’s been a lot of positive tests and a lot of programs already. Have you consulted with the likes of Clemson or Alabama or Texas or any of those on what they may or may not have done correctly what they would have changed in order to build that into your model?

Elliott: Hi, Tony, thank you for that question. I know you directed it to me, and we certainly have been discussing with colleagues all over the country, but I really believe this is best answered by Dr. McAllister. So I’m going to pass it to him.

Dr. McAllister: Thanks for your question, Tony. I don’t, I haven’t spoken specifically with medical officials at either of those campuses that you mentioned by name, but I speak regularly with a group of physicians and infectious disease experts from around our conference. And one of the things that have been noted is that everybody has had a few positives as student-athletes come back. That’s not a surprise. What we’re hoping to avoid is the situation where that number grows quickly, as I think was recently reported at Clemson, I think that’s maybe what you’re referring to. And we are utilizing all the information we can get from schools that have come before us to try to ensure that our program will minimize these risks as much as possible. But quite frankly, we are going into this with an abundance of caution. And we’re not sure what we’re going to see and we are prepared to do whatever we need to do to make adjustments to keep the program as safe as possible.

Joe Reedy: Joe Reedy from the Associated Press. A question from the group that came out yesterday that there was a letter by some football players about the process and everything, just wondering our conversations with football have gone the last day or two and how those conversations have gone and also, whether for all sports, there will be an independent monitor kind of evaluating everything.

Elliott: Joe, thank you. Thank you for that question as well. Yes. Are you referring to a letter that we received yesterday morning here in the athletic department from some of our football student-athletes, and they identified three questions or concerns in that letter. As we reviewed the letter, we felt very good about our response because all three of those requests were either already in place, or we’re in the process of reviewing those steps so that we could put them into place and we feel that those will all be ready for our student-athletes. Our new Director of Athletics, Martin Jarmond, wrote a letter to our football student-athletes which were shared with them yesterday as well to address those specific points and make sure that they had clear and direct answers to their concerns. And then coach [Chip] Kelly and Martin and a bunch of our staff and coaches then got on a call, Zoom call with those student-athletes yesterday afternoon as well. And it was a voluntary call. So, you know, not every student was there necessarily, but it was a great opportunity for a significant number of them to ask questions and then hear directly from us how we would address those questions and to specifically to your point, you know, we have our independent medical staff here starting to talk to McAllister as our lead team physician and in consultation with the UCLA health team so that we have every step of our process, reviewed carefully by them and not just members of the athletic department.

Tracy Pierson: Hi, I’m Tracy Pierson with Bruin Report Online. I’m interested in knowing any specific protocols for coaches, their quarantine process whether they’re going to it’s left up to them individually. And also, to your knowledge, has anyone involved in the program tested positive so far?

Elliott: So, Dr. McAlister, Mark, not sure who’s best equipped but either of you want to step forward and just talk about how we’re handling staff and coaches in our returns as well?

Mark Pocinich: Yeah, certainly I can talk to the first question about you know, would anybody be, you know, mandatory quarantine. The same is if a staff is coming back from traveling, it’s the same deal. They would be in a mandatory seven-day quarantine during that period before they could have returned to campus and have any contact with student-athletes. As far as the protocols in place for staff. Again, as I mentioned in the mitigating risk piece, that is to staff as well. All staff will be required to have daily monitoring and when they come to a facility, they have to provide proof of that and be asymptomatic and have their temperature checked. And they’re going through the same daily tracking logs are required. So again, we’re expecting the same level of commitment that we discussed with our student-athletes, with our staff that are going to be in direct contact with them.

Dr. McAllister: And in addition to that, we’re going to ask them to socially distance themselves from our athletes and to be masked at all times.

Elliott: And then in terms of reporting, we will follow the UCLA, should we have positive results, we will follow the UCLA system for reporting and those results consistent with our campuses reported those all along throughout this pandemic.

Ben Bolch: Just following up on that, I wasn’t clear if there was any known positives previously and among staff and coaches and then part two of my question is the independent observer part, what was the feedback from the players as to whether they were satisfied with that component given that that person still is affiliated with UCLA, even if it’s not directly with the athletic department?

Elliott: Dr. McAlister, can you say anything about testing results or what we’re, what we can disclose at this time? I don’t have any individual I don’t have any specific information myself.

Dr. McAllister: I don’t have any specific information about positive test results at this time.

Shana Wilson: Thank you. And, Matt, I think this is a good place to also just explain that we, as an athletic department, will not be announcing positive test results within the department based on the UCLA campus reporting system. So, we are being required to follow the campus reporting system so positive tests within the athletic department will be reported through the campus reporting system of daily reports and will not be singled out from the athletic department.

Elliott: And in response to your second question, I believe the conversation went very well with the student-athletes and yesterday with Coach Kelly and with Martin and the rest of our staff. So I think we had really good feedback in terms of understanding that we are addressing all three of their requests and that we are, as I said, that we either have them in place or we’re moving to have them in place by the time that we’ve started those activities. I believe we’re in a good place yesterday.

Reedy: As far as the return to practice for football and basketball, does that have to be approved by the county and just wondering as far as the feedback from the county, what they would like to kind of see changed or adjusted before given their approval?

Elliott: That’s right. So we will be looking to the county to take any additional steps. As noted, we feel that our procedures, right now, to line up with county guidelines related to the opening of these athletic facilities are in place so that you can do your individual workouts, whether it’s out on a field or within the facility, at a weight station, but the county has not yet authorized, you know, team activities, practices, if you will. So we will continue to work with them closely. We’re doing that on, if not daily, almost every other day basis of having those conversations. Derek, is there anything else you want to add about indications they’ve given you as to what they’re looking for to authorize practices?

Derek Doolittle: No, I don’t think so. I mean, of course, just like with our, the plan that we’ve laid out before you today, and we’ve we’ve consulted closely with the county and allow them to review our plans for that. We will certainly do the same for our practice and competition plans. But as Matt stated, those two activities are just something that within this county are not permissible at our level at this point.

Siracusa: I need some clarification on the reporting that we just talked about. So the reporting is not going to come through the athletic department, it’s going to come through the school. Is the school going to delineate that some of the, is it going to just give one broad number of students or is it going to delineate that some of these are within the football program or within the athletic department?

Elliott: Yeah. At this time, we do not believe there is a delineation of specific student-athletes separate from campuses overall report.

Adam Grosbard: Adam Gorsbard, Orange County Register. I’ve seen at least one instance of an athletic department that opened up and then had to close down because of a spread at the school. I guess what would a worst-case scenario at UCLA, like, is there a threshold that would have to be met for the department to close down again?

Dr. McAllister: We will be monitoring in real-time, what’s happening with our student-athletes as the return. And if we find that we have an unexpected spike or increase in positive test results, then we will take appropriate action based upon our consultation with our infectious disease experts through UCLA health who have helped us develop all of our policies and procedures to date. So it’s just going to be something that we’re going to have to monitor in real-time. We don’t have an absolute number or threshold at this time. The experts are unable to give us a number like that, but I can simply tell you that we will be tracking this very, very closely.

Jevon Moore: Yes, this is Jevon Moore with FI360 News. I wanted to know, in terms of contact and tracking, you said upon a student-athlete entering the building, their name will be checked off and you would know what time they were in the building. For the tracking purposes, are you guys going to track their time in and out from each facility from whether it be from the weight room to the training room to the practice field, are there going to be time tracks so you can be able to know what’s going on for your contact, tracking?

Doolittle: First of all, to outline, I might not have done this during my presentation, student-athletes will also have structured times in which they can come into the building. For example, if they have an 8 am workout schedule, their entry will likely begin at, say 7:45am. So, yes, we’ll track them into the weight room. If that were the case, or if they’re going into the sport medicine room, We’ll track them into the sports medicine room, and then their exit might not be as closely tracked at this point. But this will give us a good baseline to contact anyone we feel necessary through the Ashe Center and through other entities that will help us with our contact tracing procedures but generally speaking, they will be tracked into any facility they enter, given the time they enter.

Elliott: It is probably also important to note that student-athletes will only be in the building for those specific purposes. So we’re not reopening locker rooms or other meeting spaces, or other places to congregate at this time. So we’ll know they’re there for either the appointment or the workout, and then they’ll leave and take all their equipment with them as they walk out. That’ll allow us to have a very clear record of when individuals were in the building.

Bolch: What is the athlete’s downtime going to look like? I mean, are they going to be just sitting in their rooms, is there going to be any sort of organized functions even virtually? What are they going to be doing to occupy the time when they’re not either being tested, evaluated or engaging in athletic activities?

Bolch: Probably two responses here. So maybe Erin, could you just explain, so what else is permissible? Because I know there’s still some things that the coaches can do virtually. And then I thinkm so maybe you could walk through that for the different sports and then maybe Mark or Dr. McAllister, you can talk about what are again the recommendations for people to carry on with their lives when they’re not here in our facilities?

Erin Adkins: Yeah, I think I can break that down into three different sections. So first off, there are opportunities for the team to meet virtually through pretty much middle of July for football and through July for the other sports are they going to have team meetings, film reviews, real chalk talk sessions via Zoom. So there will be eight hours a week of team meetings in such remote care or remote athletic activity, as we call it. Second, we had a great meeting with Reslife this week. A few of the leadership and they are really, really committed to, permitting an environment both in the apartment and the dorm that is a real sense of community while virtual. So they are going to host different movie nights and have different leadership speakers come in, but through a great partnership with Reslife, they really want to still have it feel like a residential community as best they can but within the policies related to social distancing and what’s required to have them stay safe. And then third, a large majority of our student-athletes will also be, having some academic component quite a few will be enrolled in summer school which will allow them to progress or progress towards their degree but also provide an academic component to the downtime.

Amanda Scurlock: My question is about the mental health screenings that you were proposing to have early on. How frequently will you have them through the phases and during the time that they will be there?

Pocinich: Thanks, Amanda. Great question. And certainly, like I mentioned, as they go through this initial screening, this is a key point of emphasis for us. And so they will have that initial screen. And as well as that we’re going to follow up with a team meeting that is really going to allow the teams as a whole to meet with our mental health providers in a very safe space to discuss team dynamics as well as individuals. So really, the programming from that point is we’ve got the individuals and what their needs are, and then based on that, coupled with what we get from the team is really going to shape what the process is going to look like. We know it’s Going to be ongoing that that is not something that we’re undecided about and really with the coordination of our student athlete well being coordinator, who will be in close contact in coordinating and providing the support as it moves forward. So we know what’s going to happen, but it’s going to be based on those factors.

Pierson: Just some clarification. When players are living on campus, they aren’t really in the strictest sense quarantined, right? They could opt to socialize with family and friends. Is that correct? And if it is why?

Pocinich: So I think I can answer that. Look, I think we’ve been, we’ve tried to be really clear on this point, that their outside contacts have got to be very limited in this environment. It’s very structured from when they’re in our facilities, but we discussed, look, the key to their success here is them committing to following the protocols that we’ve laid out and at this time, it’s just not permissible to get together with friends. Even teammates that are there, we talked about this very specifically that again, they’re naturally going to want to hang out together. But they have to make sure they’re following the protocols that we put in place related to physical distancing, wearing a face mask, all those other things to make sure that we’re successful. So look, there’s a very limited window of people that fall in that we would feel like acceptable, certainly, if they have family that are home, and that’s a very, you know, again, closed and secure environment, then that would be appropriate. But really, anything outside of that has to be very careful and very controlled for them to be a part of.

Elliott: One thing that you’ve said and maybe you want to expand on this is that we’re going to welcome student-athletes back to campus this week and we will put them through that screening process based on all the factors where they’ve been who they’ve been in contact with. But if they were to leave campus and leave our community, again, potentially get on another plane or, or go somewhere else, we may have to start that process over again, or certainly at least reevaluate all the contacts that they’ve had. And then you the medical staff would determine what is appropriate at that time.

Pocinich: Yeah, that’s really a key piece is having them understand that again, we’re not saying they can’t, but if they choose to go out and do other things that again, we know, may increase the possibility of we’re going to have an exposure and bring in some potential infection into the system, that we’re very careful about monitoring that. And again, we’re conscious of, this is not just a, we talked to them in a team meeting, we sent something to them. This is going to be an ongoing daily process to really make sure we’re reinforcing to them. So they understand it. I mean, it’s one thing to have us we know to have, to discuss this in a team meeting. But when they get here and really see what it looks like, we certainly want to make sure there’s ongoing discussions and we get feedback so we can help them decide, is this something they want to continue through at this point based on how we’ve laid it out?

Reedy: Just following up on a previous question. Has there been any talks with the county or do you expect the county clearance for football and basketball to be within the NCAA timelines of beginning?

Elliott: We have had those conversations, but really the emphasis has been on the return to campus and the return and athletic performance activity so that we could get to this stage. We know we have a lot to do here on our own campus before Phase Three would be possible. And that includes going through all these steps and evaluating how it’s going. And then being ready to know how to evaluate Stage Three, or Phase Three, as I said at the beginning, we don’t know when the dates are going to come. But we want to make sure that we’re ready whenever those dates do arrive. And that’s why you saw today, we laid out a four-phase plan. Because we think that we know what is, as of today, this is a fluid plan, things absolutely could change and recommendations could differ. But we have a plan of what we think is necessary for phase three to be able to resume those activities. We do know that the governor’s office in the state of California continues to look at college athletics from a sort of a big picture standpoint and what’s going to take place in this state. So we are engaging in those conversations as well to just try to understand what guidance we’ll get from them. But we see sort of a similar process to what we saw to get to Phase Two is that there will hopefully be some guidelines and guidance from our state that they can And he will then translate for us and say, here’s what’s appropriate here in LA County, based on what’s happening in real time. You know, every decision they make is obviously influenced by the current events, what’s happening here in our local community, and then evaluating how fast to move, so we don’t know. We might even just have to say we don’t know what that date is going to be. But I think we at least have some confidence that we know what steps we need to take when that date does arrive. Dr. McAllister, is there anything you want to add there just about how that assessment will go?

Dr. McAllister: I don’t think I have much to add. I wish we knew the answers to the dates in the timeline. Those are all things we would like to know. I’m pretty sure that the county health authorities and others will be looking to see how it goes with what we have proposed so far. That’s certainly what we’re looking at as well. And we don’t have any other timelines or dates that were knowledgeable of at this time.
Divine ahead.

Moore: This one is a little higher up question, in a sense for the Pac-12, since it covers over six different states. What’s being said or talked about on the Pac-12 level to make sure that no one has a competitive advantage, because we are talking about, UCLA has to deal with and Cal has to deal with being governed by the UCs than the state of California, where Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Utah, those particular states are all going to be on different timeframes. So how, what has been said to not have a competitive advantage based on which state you’re in across the Pac-12?

Elliott: And think that that’s a certain topic of conversation and I can, we can point to what’s happened so far? So there was, Erin, correct me if I’m wrong, but a pandemic policy, I believe was the title or the description. So that was put into place for, what does the month of May look like, for example? And how do we keep everybody on the same page, even if communities were experiencing different types of recommendations from their local governments. So there, there was alignment there. And I think part of that rationale, of course, was to try to keep a level playing field. And you know, then when we look at getting into this next stage. And that’s really the Pac-12 decision that voluntary activities would be allowed after June 15, based on local decisions. So again, I think that there was some balance there between what is appropriate for each community and how do we try to at least set some guideline or some timetable here, that is going to give everybody, kind of keep everybody in a level playing field. So we’ve got those two examples to how we got here. Today, I know that that will continue or I believe that will continue to be a prime consideration as we move forward not just within the Pac-12. But nationally is how do we keep everybody sort of having that? Having fairness being one of our guiding principles, it doesn’t mean we’ll all be on the same dates or the same timeline. But we want to have that as a factor as well. So So based on what we’ve seen, I believe that we’ll continue to carry on as we move forward as well.
Thanks, Matt. Any other final questions before we wrap here?

Rick Kembrel: Did the players ever voiced their concerns regarding, before making that letter public, they voiced concerns the coaching staff or anybody there?

Elliott: I think we had, we’ve been having conversations with our student-athletes, going back to the, certainly the beginning of this month, about the return to training protocols. I’d mentioned that we had sort of a town hall of all of our student leaders represented the BAC, and a number of those other student groups where we were able to have these conversations about what was important to them. The issues that we needed to stay focused on and then the Stakeholder Committee, which the group that you’re seeing right now, is on but then comprised of a larger group of student-athletes, coaches, etcetera, does meet weekly so that we can continue to hear those questions so yes absolutely some of these questions were raised and that’s why we were working so diligently to either implement these steps, or make sure that we were deep into the process to have them ready, but I think the conversations are ongoing and even some of the questions had been raised on Wednesday night or Thursday night in team meetings. Where are we we’re getting to continuing to get feedback, which again, helped push us forward and try to get to some of these conclusions. You know one of the questions had been about housing, and I think, as Erin mentioned earlier, student-athletes that said, hey, we want to see if you can address concerns about living in shared rooms and maybe that doesn’t make us feel comfortable and coming back and Erin, the football staff the housing team everybody worked diligently to respond to that this week and make sure student-athletes felt really good about what we’re those housing options so so we’ve absolutely had these questions and you know, to the extent that we didn’t communicate clearly, where we work with our student-athletes. That was a great lesson that we feel like you know we’ll just keep getting better and make sure that we provide the opportunities for more education, more discussion going forward, you know, getting Dr. McAllister in front of the team, more frequently, getting his team, his staff in front of the teams more frequently, is really important. Now there’s probably another really good takeaway that we had from yesterday so just keep ramping up how we communicate and make sure that our student-athletes are clear that we’re answering their questions.

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