The University of Arkansas at Little Rock women's basketball program did all it could, but the Trojans will again find themselves sidelined this weekend.
Additional covid-19 cases and subsequent contact tracing have forced UALR to postpone its weekend games with Texas State, the program announced Wednesday. Last Thursday, the Trojans placed their games with Louisiana-Lafayette set for Friday and Saturday on hold after positive tests and exposure to the virus within the team.
Makeup dates for each set of games have yet to be determined. The Trojans (5-4, 1-1 Sun Belt) are next scheduled to host Texas-Arlington on Jan. 22-23.
"I think there is a level of certainty that we're going to be ready to rock next week," UALR head athletic trainer Jacob Hoy said. "I think there's a really good chance barring more positive cases."
Under Sun Belt Conference covid-19 protocols, a program must have at least seven eligible players to compete, and covid-19 cases and close-contact exposures placed UALR below that threshold after a trip to Texas-Arlington on Jan. 1-2.
UALR still has some players available despite the postponements.
The group is made up primarily of players who previously had contracted the virus and are still within their 150-day "immunity phase" in which -- according to Hoy and guidelines set by the Arkansas Department of Health -- they are unlikely to pick up or transmit the virus. Those players are not included in the Trojans' testing and tracing program, and they continue to participate in team activities.
The Trojans did not disclose the number of positive cases within the program, but with 14 players on the roster, UALR is currently without more than 50% of its team.
The unavailable players fall into three categories: those who tested positive and are showing symptoms; others with positive tests and no symptoms; and close-contact exposures.
Players who test positive and exhibit symptoms fall under the most strict return to play guidelines. Those athletes must undergo a 14-day isolation period, and under UALR's protocols, must also be asymptomatic for 24 hours before seeing a physician for clearance, which involves a medical exam as well as a cardiology test.
Those who test positive but are asymptomatic can return after a 10-day quarantine period and are bound to the same medical clearances.
Most critical to the Trojans regaining an eligible roster is the clearance of players who were classified as close-contact exposures to teammates who tested positive. Guidelines define close contact as any interaction within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes. After exposure, those players enter a seven-day quarantine and are typically tested five days after initially coming into contact with a positive case. Providing no symptoms occur and a player returns a negative test, they are eligible to return at the end of that seven-day quarantine.
"We continued this week with individuals who were not considered a direct contact from our positive first test, and they were allowed to continue with practice activities," Hoy said. "But with another positive, that knocked more of [the team] back into quarantine and caused us to quarantine the individuals and to take an extended amount of time before canceling this week's games as well."
UALR now has eight days for players to recover and/or clear protocols before attempting to snap a four-game postponed streak against Texas-Arlington.