Luke Ratliff was an Alabama student and men’s basketball superfan known around campus as “Fluffopotamus.” Last week, he made the trip to Indianapolis to watch the Tide in the Sweet 16. Ratliff was in Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday for the game. After UCLA pulled off the upset that night, he returned to Tuscaloosa the following day. Later in the week, he was hospitalized and died of complications related to COVID-19.
He was only 23.
“He had a personality that was bigger than this world, never met a stranger,” Ratliff’s mother told the New York Times on Saturday. “He didn’t have any of the typical symptoms until the cough set in this week,” she said of her son’s illness.
Following Ratliff’s death, the Marion County Public Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health are looking for answers. They recently began working in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health to contact trace.
“Based on a recent news story, the Marion County Public Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health are contacting the Alabama Department of Public Health to determine if anyone in Indianapolis may have been exposed to COVID-19 by any Alabama resident who visited Indianapolis in recent days,’’ county officials said in a statement. “We are conducting an investigation following the county and state’s standard contact tracing procedures.’’
It’s too early to say for sure whether or not Ratliff contracted COVID while he was in Indianapolis. But it’s certainly plausible given the timing.
The NCAA has allowed fans to attend indoor games at 25 percent capacity throughout the men’s and women’s tournaments. And in the days to come, we may be able to see just how far COVID spread at this so-called “bubble” with fans in the stands.