Kirby Smart 'concerned' as Georgia football program deals with spike of COVID-19 cases
In the Georgia football team meeting room, coach Kirby Smart stood at a podium early Monday afternoon and answered questions at his weekly press conference.
That's a regular part of the routine for the sixth-year Bulldogs coach, but this one marked the return of reporters in person to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall for the first time since the pandemic began.
It came during a time when Smart said the program is dealing with increasing cases of COVID-19, the most it's had since the start of preseason practices in August.
"I'll be honest with you guys, I'm as concerned as I've ever been because we have three or four guys out," said Smart, whose team hosts Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. "We have a couple of staff members that have been out with COVID here recently. For us, we're at our highest spike."
The positive cases are infections for people that are fully vaccinated, Smart said.
"We're talking about breakthroughs," Smart said. "That concerns you, not only for players on the team that are unvaccinated that are playing and not playing because we want everybody to be safe, but it concerns for players that are vaccinated that we could lose them. This is the highest we've been since fall camp right now."
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Georgia did not have any of its regular contributors absent from Saturday’s 10-3 win over Clemson in Charlotte other than those already known to be injured.
That's even with director of sports medicine Ron Courson out after he tested positive.
"Ron's doing good," Smart said. "He's had a tough run. You know, Ron is the hardest worker I've ever met in my life. He's never not been in this building during the day. He's never not been here two days in a row, including spring break and off time. It's killing him, I think, to not be here. His health seems good. Hopefully, he'll be back."
The football program vaccination rate is more than 90 percent, Smart has said. Smart filmed a video shown recently by the Georgia Department of Public Health urging fans to "say yes" to getting the vaccination.
Georgia also made players available Monday for in-person interviews on campus for the first time since December 2019 when the team was preparing for the Sugar Bowl against Baylor. Interviews have been held on Zoom since last season.
Players did the interviews a floor above where Smart's news conference was held, but lines were marked on the floor so reporters would remain socially distanced.
Most media members wore masks even though it wasn't required. They aren't required for UGA classes either despite the CDC classifying Athens-Clarke County being an area of high transmission.