Gators head coach Dan Mullen held a mask in his hand during his press conference on Thursday, something many assumed would be something of the past prior to cases of COVID-19 re-surging in Florida due to the new Delta variant.
As such, the team is taking extra precautions in an effort to prevent any potential outbreak among the football team. Mullen says the program continues to look at the "curve," educating his players.
The "curve" refers to the number of cases per capita to the number of hospitalizations. Essentially, if people get infected, how soon can preventative care come into play to prevent either further infections, serious illness or death.
"We kind of switched back to - we're not mandatory masks in anything we do, but highly encouraged especially in any sort of team or positional meeting when we're indoor confined spaces," said Mullen.
Last week, the University of Florida sent out a memo informing its students, professors and others that will be stepping foot on campus that it is strongly encouraging masks to be worn indoors. However, it cannot legally mandate masks be worn in any capacity.
Mullen's team has done just that, making sure everyone is aware and understands the situation, something he says the program learned a lot from last year.
"And we know, a little bit more educated on the situation of preventative aspect of it and where to be comfortable and how not to be, and what not to do," he said. "So, we have changed that since we've gone, but we have not put any mandates in on anybody."
Last season, the Gators football team suffered through an outbreak that led to the program shutting down for two weeks. Upwards of 70 people within the football program were infected last season, including Mullen himself.
The precautions are just that though, as Mullen is encouraged by his team's vaccination rate thus far. He says that while the team is not 100% vaccinated, he is strongly encouraged by the current rate.
"We're not at 100%, but we're really, very, very, very high that way," he explained. "We're at a grade that you could bring home to your parents, you wouldn't have to hide that report card. We're at that percentage where you'd be proud to bring your report card home with our percentage number on there."
The Florida football program thus far has not had any issues in regards to COVID-19 this season as it continues through fall training camp. Using these precautions measures will only allow them to continue operating in that way. Around 17 months ago, there were questions if there would even be a football season.
Now, Florida will be set to kick off its season against Florida Atlantic University in its first game back to a full-capacity crowd of upwards of 90,000 fans.
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