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Back on track: After two rounds of negative tests, Nevada in good shape to finish season

Nevada basketball
Nevada basketball had to pause its operations for a week following at least one positive COVID-19 case. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)

After pausing operations last week following at least one positive COVID-19 test, the Nevada basketball team is back on the court and in good position to resume games next week.

The Wolf Pack has completed two rounds of testing this week with no additional positive tests and returned to practice Thursday.

"We have ramped back up," Nevada director of communications Aaron Juarez told Nevada Sports Net on Friday.

The Wolf Pack has had four games postponed since first recording a positive test Feb. 11. That came after the team bussed from Reno to San Jose for a two-game series with the Spartans. The team found out around 12:30 p.m. Feb. 12 that at least one person in the travel party had tested positive. After a short team meeting, the team returned to Reno via bus with its games Saturday and Monday postponed. Per university policy, Nevada has not revealed how many people tested positive Feb. 11 or whether a player was impacted.

Nevada has since followed CDC quarantine and isolation guidelines.

"Following the guidelines, we were immediately put on a pause for everybody to isolate," Juarez said. "How long we were going to isolate and pause before we got back to team activities was going to depend on testing. The guidelines say a minimum of seven days as long as you have a negative test beginning on the fifth day of your initial exposure. Our initial exposure was considered last Thursday when we took the bus ride.

"The whole group except for the effected took a PCR test on Monday afternoon and those all came back negative, and then we had a rapid antigen test for the whole group Wednesday afternoon on day seven after exposure. Once they all came back negative with the exception of the effected, they could get back to basketball because Wednesday would have been day seven. On Thursday, everybody was able to return and be free to get back to basketball."

Nevada is scheduled for another test after Friday's practice, which started at 2:30 p.m. The Wolf Pack was scheduled to host Colorado State in a two-game series Saturday and Monday, however those games have been postponed. The two school plus the Mountain West consulted earlier this week and decided to postponed the series rather than play it as scheduled or push the games back a day or two.

"The decision was made between the three entities, us, Colorado State and the Mountain West," Juarez said. "All three were in constant communication talking about it. I don't know if one of those entities was adamant about not playing the game. I just know there was constant communication between Colorado State, us and the Mountain West, and the decision was made late Monday around 5 o'clock and it was announced Tuesday morning that we were going to postponed the series."

Nevada does not have anybody from its SJSU travel party in contact tracing isolation since everybody has tested negative twice since exposure, including one rapid test plus one PCR test, which is more accurate but takes longer to process. The Wolf Pack is scheduled to resume action with games at Utah State next Friday and Sunday and is on track to play as long as it doesn't have any future positive COVID-19 tests.

"As long as we keep going through with no negatives between now and when we would leave for Logan, we're on track right now and preparing as if we're going to play Utah State last week," Juarez said.

The Wolf Pack has four games to make up between the end of the regular season (Feb. 28) and the start of the MW Tournament (March 10), including the series with SJSU and Colorado State. It's highly unlikely both series will be squeezed into that timeframe, and there remains the possibility the MW could opt against making up the postponed games to avoid increasing any potential COVID-19 risk leading into its conference tournament.

The last 10 days have marked the first major COVID-19 issues this season for the Wolf Pack (14-7, 9-5 MW), which played its first 21 games without a postponement. The team's non-conference game at San Francisco in early December was canceled due to local restrictions against hosting games in the Bay Area, but Nevada backfilled with a home contest against William Jessup.

While Nevada's coaches, trainers and other team staff recently became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Wolf Pack players have yet to become eligible under UNR's vaccine structure.

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