Georgia head coach Kirby Smart
Georgia coach Kirby Smart and tailback Zamir White celebrate the team's win over Clemson in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Georgia HC Kirby Smart “As Concerned As I’ve Ever Been” Over Teams’ Spiking COVID-19 Cases

In the era of COVID-19 in sports, a teams’ best ability is availability.

Georgia HC Kirby Smart reflected this Monday while discussing a COVID-19 outbreak within his team. Coming off a season-defining victory against Clemson, the Bulldogs should have momentum for the season ahead. Yet, with as many as three to four athletes testing positive for the virus, such momentum could come to a screeching halt. Smart discusses his worries during Monday’s media availability below.

Reason For Concern

Georgia’s spike comes in the wake of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases worldwide. Particularly, different mutations of the virus such as the delta and lambda variants are running rampant. As of Monday, there are 76,076 cases of the virus throughout the United States. Overall, there have been around 1.4 million cases total in the state of Georgia.

Likewise, the state of the pandemic in Georgia is concerning for Smart’s team. In Clarke County, where Athens, GA, presides, there is only 45% of the population who have completed at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Furthermore, there is a positive test rate of 15.4% along with 80.1 new cases a day per 100,000 people. Being one of the most populated counties in the state, this data is eyebrow raising. In wake of this, the University of Georgia announced fans are not required to be vaccinated or show a negative test before attending live games.

Such data can help explain the outbreak within the ‘Dawgs locker room. While there’s three to four athletes infected, he also highlights there are several staff members infected too. The coach goes on to explain the infected team members are vaccinated, emphasizing the nature of the cases as breakthrough.

Georgia players celebrate a victory over Clemson in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Momentum Halted?

Georgia’s outbreak couldn’t have come at a worse time for Smart and company. Saturday, the ‘Dawgs experienced arguably one of the biggest wins in the Kirby Smart era, defeating No. 3 Clemson 10-3. With the win, they expect to be in contention for the SEC Championship with aspirations for the College Football Playoff.

Yet, this outbreak could critically hurt the momentum gained in Charlotte. Certainly, Georgia is already missing two of its best players in defensive lineman Jordan Davis and tight end Darnell Washington. Now, there’s a chance they’re down even more men headed into week two. Accordingly, Smart has not specified which players have tested positive.

Heading into week two of the college football season, the ‘Dawgs now look ahead to their home opener against UAB. While it’s unknown how many players will miss this game, Smart knows not to tread this Conference USA opponent lightly.

What’s Next?

With more than 90% of the team vaccinated, Georgia shouldn’t have to forfeit any games. According to SEC protocol, if a team crosses the 85% vaccinated threshold, there does not need to be regular testing. However, if enough players test positive from the outbreak, they could be forced to forfeit the game as no games will be rescheduled this season.

Georgia hosts UAB at Sanford Stadium Saturday in their home opener.

About Sam Petosa

Sam Petosa is a Journalism major pursuing a Specialization in Sports and Media at UF. The South Florida native produces daily shows for WRUF, including "Sport Scene with Steve Russell, and "The Tailgate." In addition, Sam provides weekly sports updates for WUFT News and radio Sportscenter's for WRUF radio. Sam has been a writer at ESPN Gainesville since January 2020.

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