College Basketball

NCAA fan’s death due to COVID-19 prompts contact tracing in Marion County as Final Four begins

INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WISH) — The Marion County Health Department is investigating whether anyone was exposed to COVID-19 by Alabama residents following Friday night’s reported death of a Crimson Tide fan who was in Indianapolis for the NCAA Tournament last weekend.

Luke Ratliff, a 23-year-old Alabama student, died after a brief illness, his father, Bryan Ratliff, told The Tuscaloosa News. The newspaper, citing multiple sources it did not identify, reported Ratliff died of complications related to COVID-19. The elder Ratliff could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday by The Associated Press.

The health department said in a Saturday statement: “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. We are conducting an investigation following the county and state’s standard contact tracing procedures. We continue to encourage residents and visitors to practice the simple and important habits that keep us all safe: wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing.”

The younger Ratliff was hospitalized shortly after returning to Tuscaloosa on March 29, one day after attending Alabama’s game against UCLA at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the News reported. He was a well-known fan known as Fluffopotamus, familiar to many in his plaid jacket this season and the leader of the Crimson Chaos basketball campus support group.

The University of Alabama, its athletics department, its basketball team and many coaches and players posted tributes to Ratliff on social media.

The men’s basketball team and the university’s athletic director both identified Ratliff’s Twitter account as they shared photos and condolences. In tweets from March 31 on that account, Ratliff shared ticket stubs and photos from three NCAA Tournament games: March 20 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, March 22 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and March 28 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, when the Crimson Tide lost to UCLA.

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