Howard University
Howard University Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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This post has been updated with new information from the NHL and the Maryland and American University men’s basketball teams.

On Wednesday, the Howard University men’s basketball program became the latest local team to cancel or postpone activities due a surge of positive COVID-19 cases. In a press release, the athletics department announced that all men’s basketball activities have been paused “due to positive COVID-19 test results among the program’s ‘Tier 1’ personnel, consisting of student-athletes, coaches, medical staff, equipment staff, game day operators, and officials.”

The school added that the team will remain in quarantine and will not return to basketball activities until cleared, meaning that scheduled games against Yale on Dec. 23 and Hampton University on Dec. 30 have been canceled. Howard did not specify how many team members have tested positive or how many of them are athletes. A team spokesperson declined to disclose that information to City Paper.

As the country nears the two-year mark of the pandemic, rising COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant have forced sports teams to reschedule or cancel games, reminiscent of the outbreaks that happened throughout 2020. Howard canceled the 2020-21 men’s basketball season after only five games.

The Washington Capitals game scheduled for Dec. 22 against the Philadelphia Flyers was also postponed after the Caps pulled two players from their morning skate because of positive coronavirus test results. Washington already had three other players in COVID-19 protocols. The NHL also announced earlier this week that it would pause all activities from Dec. 23 through Dec. 25 with games scheduled to resume no earlier than Dec. 28. Because of the postponements, NHL players will no longer participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, scheduled to take place in February.

“Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events—50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23—Olympic participation is no longer feasible,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Beijing Organizing Committee to host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible for us to proceed despite everyone’s best efforts. We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026.”

The Washington Football Team has had 26 players, seven coaches, and several staff members land on the COVID-19 reserve list over the past two weeks, and the team started newly acquired journeyman quarterback Garrett Gilbert in its 27-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday night. That game was pushed back two days from its regular schedule because of the positive COVID-19 cases. Washington announced yesterday that weekly media availabilities with head coach Ron Rivera and players will be virtual for the remainder of the season.

In response to the spike in cases, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order that states a proof of vaccination will be required for anyone over the age of 12 for restaurants, bars, indoor entertainment venues, and indoor exercise and recreational establishments, among other places starting Jan. 15, 2022. That includes Capital One Arena, home of the Wizards, Capitals, and the Georgetown men’s basketball team. Earlier this week, the Big East Conference canceled the Georgetown at Providence game due to COVID-19 issues in the Georgetown program. The Hoyas forfeited the game and will be assigned a loss in the conference standings. Additionally, Maryland men’s basketball canceled its Dec. 28 game against Loyola University Maryland due to COVID-19 cases within Loyola’s program and American University did the same with its game against Siena on Dec. 28 due to health and safety protocols within the American program.

The outbreaks are affecting local high school athletics, as well. Prince George’s County Public Schools will conduct virtual learning until Jan. 14, Howard County will not play sports until Jan. 15 at the earliest, and Montgomery County Public Schools canceled all athletic contests from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2.

According to the MCPS statement, all team activities must be paused for 14 days if a team has three or more active positive COVID-19 cases. The 14 days begins from the last exposure. Winter sports at many high schools had only begun last month.