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As the University of Hawaiʻi football team gears up for its 2020 season, and other UH athletic teams prepare for their seasons to begin, experts from the Department of Mathematics and Office of Public Health Studies spoke to teams about keeping themselves COVID-19 free.

Professor Monique Chyba and Assistant Professor Thomas Lee shared the latest data on COVID-19 and emphasized the importance of wearing face masks to stop the spread of the virus with student-athletes, coaches and staff.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff remain our highest priority,” UH Mānoa Athletics Director David Matlin said. “We appreciate the efforts of Professors Monique Chyba and Thomas Lee for sharing their expert knowledge about COVID-19 and reinforcing the importance of stopping the spread of the virus with our teams.”

people wearing face masks talking in a gym setting

Chyba emphasized that although state and county governments have increased testing and contact tracing, compliance from individuals is also important to lower the daily case count. Chyba said that data shows daily counts have been plateauing, however, mathematical models predict this is an atypical situation. Even though the number of cases may drop in one day, it is not time to let your guard down.

“A big part of my message was to tell them that this is a very unstable situation and that there is no wiggle room,” Chyba said. “It just takes a little spark to bring it back up.”

“I’m glad that the UH athletics community had the privilege to listen to both Dr. Chyba as well as Dr. Lee,” said Jolie Rasmussen, a senior women’s volleyball student-athlete. “Hearing updates about the pandemic directly from an epidemiologist and mathematician was very beneficial as they could provide us with the most factual and up-to-date information regarding the virus. We must continue to do the right actions now to ensure a safe future for tomorrow.”

people wearing face masks talk on a soccer field

Chyba, who teaches many student-athletes in her mathematics courses, said many of them shared with her that they want to get back to playing the sport that they love.

“They really want to play and they seem to be eager to do what it takes to be able to play,” Chyba said.

Chyba and Lee are members of the Hawaiʻi Pandemic Applied Modeling Work Group.

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—By Marc Arakaki

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