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Florida Memorial accused of hiding COVID-19 cluster

Unlike almost all HBCUs, Florida Memorial University didn’t shut down fall sports for COVID-19. But students say an outbreak is being ignored.

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Unlike most other HBCUs, Florida Memorial University decided not to postpone fall sports due to COVID-19.

Multiple sources tell HBCU Gameday that there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the university, with many cases involving student-athletes. One coach and at least one player tested positive for COVID-19 one day after being forced to play a volleyball game in a crowded gym. They also claim information about the number of COVID positive results is not being made available to them. 

HBCU Gameday spoke with people associated with the volleyball team. One is a current volleyball player. One is a former volleyball player. Both have asked for anonymity for fear of potential loss of scholarships. The third is an employee who tested positive for COVID-19 after the Sept. 30 game. All three say that they feel FMU does not care.

“We feel that this school is not taking the right precautions and following protocol in order to help us contain the situation,” the source said.

The current player said that the volleyball team expressed their displeasure with returning to the court as early as this summer. The student-athlete says that Ernest Jones, the school’s Director of Athletics, threatened to take their scholarships if they didn’t compete.

“He basically made us play because our scholarship was at risk. Without the scholarship we cannot study, we cannot play. The whole team is international, basically, just one player is from here. So we really need the scholarships.”

The employee echoed the player’s sentiment.

“We kind of figured already that the situation was going to get worse,” the employee said. “What we didn’t want was for halfway through the season it to get worse and that be it for the girls.”

The current player said that things started off okay early in the year, but it quickly fell off. Then things took a big dive last week just before the game took place.

“There were students not wearing their mask. There was no social distancing in the game,” the player said. “There was no control of anyone. It was like crazy.”

A video interview from BCSN featuring Jones and Provost Adrienne Cooper showed a parade of student-athletes walking onto the gym floor and fist-bumping masked administrators. Official attendance was listed as zero, but there were spectators in the stands.

The day after the game, Oct. 1, the team decided to go off-site and get tested on its own. Two days after testing negative, a coach and player received positive results.

The player says her teammate tested positive and was told she needed to relocate to a hotel and pay for her transportation.

“You’re telling her dad you’re going to take care of her, taking her to the hotel,” she said. “And now you’re telling our coach to tell her to take an Uber? What kind of professionalism is that. What kind of AD are you?”

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Florida Memorial accused of hiding COVID-19 cluster
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