LAWRENCE — The coronavirus pandemic has reached one of college football’s most recognizable figures.
Les Miles, the second-year Kansas football head coach, announced Thursday afternoon that he has tested positive for COVID-19. In a news release, Miles said he has begun to self-isolate at his home but will continue to fulfill his head coaching duties remotely.
"Although I will not physically be able to attend practice for the time being, I will be using the technology available for remote working to stay connected during staff meetings, meetings with players, etc.," Miles said in a statement. "Thank you for your prayers and support in advance."
Miles tested positive for COVID-19 through the athletic department’s surveillance testing program, KU athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. Long expects Miles will continue to be able to perform his head coaching duties and, barring the development of any symptoms or a fever, anticipates Miles will coach the Jayhawks’ next game, an 11 a.m. Oct. 17 contest at West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va.
"Based on the other test results, no other coaches tested positive," Long said.
Miles, who won a national championship with LSU, has compiled a 3-12 record at the helm of the rebuilding Jayhawks. He attended his weekly "Hawk Talk" radio program Wednesday night at Johnny’s Tavern, 721 Wakarusa Dr., where he acknowledged he was battling "a cold."
"Kansas Team Health is working through the contact tracing protocols and notifying those individuals that may have been in close contact with him for an extended period of time," Long said. "We wish Coach a speedy recovery and look forward to getting him back on the field very soon."
A spokesperson for Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the department is "working closely with the University of Kansas to identify potential close contacts" to Miles.
"At this point, after communication with KU and the owner of Johnny’s Tavern West, we would not consider those in general attendance at Wednesday night’s airing of Hawk Talk to be at high risk for exposure," said George Diepenbrock, communications officer for Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health. "This is based on the protocols they had in place and implemented for the show, including social distancing, mask wearing during restaurant movement and use of plexiglass barriers."
Under new protocols announced Sept. 7, attendees at "Hawk Talk" events are required to wear masks upon entry into the restaurant, with at least 6 feet of space separating the audience from Miles and co-host Brian Hanni. Miles and Hanni, who are separated by "clear dividers," have been instructed not to sign autographs or otherwise interact with guests.
Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health’s disease investigators label as "close contacts" any persons who spend more than 10 minutes within 6 feet of an individual who tests positive for COVID-19, relevant to any interactions within 48 hours of that patient’s onset of symptoms, Diepenbrock said.
"When close contacts are identified, a public health contact tracer will make contact and notify them they’ve potentially been exposed and that they need to quarantine for 14 days since their last exposure," Diepenbrock said. "Because risk of COVID-19 transmission is present in the community right now, we encourage anyone who feels symptomatic right now to self-quarantine and contact their healthcare provider."
Miles, 66, was on the sideline for KU’s last contest, a 47-7 defeat to then-No. 17 Oklahoma State last Saturday in Lawrence. After that game, Miles and Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy shook hands at midfield, with Miles pulling down his mask to speak to Gundy.
"I look forward to beating this virus and returning back to be with my team in person very soon," Miles said in his statement. "Rock Chalk!"