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Band: Ragin’ Cajuns football team loses band due to COVID-19 ‘uptick’ on campus

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Nov. 13, 2020

The UL band played at Cajun Field when the Ragin' Cajuns beat Georgia Southern in September.

UL Band playing at the Georgia Southern game in September, 2020. Scott Clause/USA Today Network.

Because of a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus, the nationally ranked Ragin’ Cajuns football team will be without its band for its final two regular-season home games.

The No. 25 Cajuns are scheduled to play South Alabama on Saturday (1 p.m., ESPN�) and Central Arkansas on Nov. 21 (1 p.m., ESPN�).

According to a letter from UL Lafayette president Joseph Savoie obtained by The Daily Advertiser, “In recent days, we have seen an uptick in the number of students reporting positive COVID-19 test results. This unfortunate trend mirrors the rising number of cases in Acadiana, across Louisiana and throughout the nation.

“Some of these cases at the University are in the School of Music and Performing Arts and include members of the marching band and a number of ensembles.”

Therefore, the school suspended all on-campus music-making activities for 14 days and is asking all student organizations to conduct virtual meetings and activities through Monday.”

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‘We’ll certainly miss them’

Groups that have approved, in-person events scheduled that cannot be held virtually should contact the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement before proceeding, according to the letter addressed late Tuesday to “students, faculty and staff members.”

A UL athletic department spokesman confirmed Thursday the Cajuns will play the Jaguars without the band present for COVID-19 related reasons.

“We’ll certainly miss them and the music and spirit that they bring,” Savoie wrote. “I know it’s a sacrifice for them and for all our student musicians and faculty members who are affected by this decision.”

The school’s color guard also will be absent Saturday.

The actions are “not punitive, but precautionary” and are being put in place “out of an abundance of caution” and to limit potential spread, Savoie said. The university responded to outbreaks similarly earlier in the semester, halting in-person student activities in response to increases in positive cases.

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‘Health and safety’

The “uptick” Savoie referenced is reflected in the data on the university’s online dashboard.

The total number of new cases was hovering in the teens through October but spiked in November, with 39 new cases reported the week of Nov. 1 and 41 reported this week so far. Only three of the 80 new cases from the last two weeks have been faculty or staff members, according to the dashboard.

By way of comparison, there were 17 new cases the week of Oct. 25 and 10 the prior week.

“The bottom line is that we must slow the virus’ spread,” Savoie wrote. “Achieving this requires that we analyze the case data that’s available and act with vigilance and proactivity when we see movement in the wrong direction. The health and safety of our University family is far too precious to do otherwise.

“I’d like you to think also about your own families. As Thanksgiving approaches, your actions and activities – both on campus and particularly off campus – could affect relatives and others with underlying health conditions who are more susceptible to the virus.

“The end of the semester is near, and the health and safety protocols we put in place have gotten us this far with relatively low rates of COVID-19. … But we aren’t finished yet, and I’m asking for your continued cooperation, particularly if you are participating in previously planned in-person events that will be held as scheduled in the coming days.”

What we learned:UL Ragin’ Cajuns 27, Arkansas State Red Wolves 20

‘Mask up, keep your distance’

For those who do opt to attend Saturday’s game at Cajun Field, where capacity has been capped at 5,585, Savoie encouraged students to “mask up, keep your distance and be mindful of the guidelines.”

The decision by UL Lafayette comes during the same week LSU postponed its game with No. 1 Alabama due to an outbreak within the Tigers program. UL Monroe also suspended football activities and rescheduled its game at Arkansas State due to COVID-19 concerns within the Warhawks program, and Louisiana Tech called off its home game against Rice due to a combination of COVID issues and injuries at one position group.

UL coach Billy Napier, who team lost more than a dozen players to positive test results or contact tracing for a game or two earlier this season, addressed the outbreaks with his Cajuns after practice Wednesday night.

“I talked to them … about having awareness there is a little bit of an increase in cases, certainly across the country, but also here locally and on campus,” Napier said. “So I think we’ve got to be aware of what’s happening out there.

“I do think it comes down to discipline, right? It comes down to daily decision-making and being conscientious … and ultimately you’ve got to have a little bit of sacrifice that comes with this in terms of what you do and who you spend time with.”

Contributing: Daily Advertiser reporter Leigh Guidry

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