The NCAA released its COVID guidelines for the fall semester this week, and it looks like vaccinated athletes will have a much easier go of it this season compared to their unvaccinated counterparts. That’s a somewhat expected but nonetheless pleasant development for players at schools like Boston College mandating that all students get the COVID vaccine before coming to campus.
NEW: NCAA releases fall COVID guidelines.— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) August 4, 2021
Vaxxed Tier 1 individuals (coaches, players, close-contact staff) aren’t recommended to be tested unless close contact or sustained transmission on a team.
If you’re not vaxxed, get ready for a lot of COVID tests and a lot of masking. pic.twitter.com/jPftpznIlW
As The Athletic’s Chris Vannini notes in his tweet above, unvaccinated players will pretty much see a continuation of last year’s stressful and constant testing regimen to minimize COVID spread among the roster. Unvaccinated players will need to take one PCR or two antigen tests upon arrival on campus, plus weekly PCR tests (or an antigen test prior to each contest) during the competition season. In addition, unvaccinated players who come into close contact with an infected person will be required to quarantine.
But vaccinated players will largely have their freedom restored back to normal this year. No tests whatsoever are required of vaccinated athletes unless they show symptoms or if there is an outbreak on the team (defined as 3+ players on teams of 50 or fewer players or 5% of the roster on teams with more than 50 players), or depending on how much close contact they’ve had with someone who has tested positive. Vaccinated players will not have to isolate if they come into close contact, instead only needing to go into isolation if they test positive themselves.
The combination of no testing as well as not having to quarantine based on close contact means that players won’t miss games while being asymptomatic, simply because they won’t know they’re COVID-positive in the first place. That’s to be a big competitive shot in the arm (ha!) to fully vaccinated teams like BC. As an example, last season the women’s hockey team had several players missing games almost every week because of close contacts alone, even though relatively few players actually tested positive.
You might think that the possibility of athletes playing asymptomatically and being in a locker room with their teammates may sound reckless, but consider that a COVID-positive player on a team with universal vaccination is extremely unlikely to result in an outbreak, particularly if that player is asymptomatic. The de facto bubble of a vaccine-mandated college campus is going to be one of the safest places on Earth from the pandemic. Imagine if the whole country did it! But I digress...
It’ll be a nice change of pace for BC fans not having to worry about short benches and outbreaks and possible forfeits, but for sure the best part of the vaccine mandate is that the players will have their lives back to normal. No more avoiding family members, no more missed Thanksgiving dinners, no more half-team meetings to reduce the number of people in the room... the players can just focus on their sports and school work. Hard to see a downside to that.