Unvaccinated college athletes should be tested weekly for COVID-19, wear masks in most situations and be quarantined if exposed to the virus, while vaccinated individuals should not be routinely tested, according to the latest health and safety recommendations from the government. NCAA released Wednesday.
The updated guidelines usually follow CDC recommendations and come when football practice begins nationwide. They also come at a time when the highly transmissible delta variant has led to some regional spikes in COVID infections.
The NCAA recommends that fully vaccinated individuals not undergo pre-season surveillance testing unless they show symptoms, or based on a risk assessment of documented close contact with COVID-19.
While unvaccinated individuals must be quarantined if they come into close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, those who have been vaccinated can stay with the team while masking in public indoor settings for up to 14 days. That period can be shortened by a negative test or if a review shows that the contact was not a high risk.
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should be in isolation for 10 days, and at least 24 hours after not taking medication to overcome a fever.
“Current vaccination coverage remains inadequate to provide community-level immunity,” said Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s medical director. “It is essential that member schools work with federal, state and local public health officials to develop COVID-19 prevention and management strategies that make sense to them.”
The new NCAA guidelines recommend masks for everyone on team travel and during indoor environments, and for unvaccinated individuals to mask and practice social distancing in most situations outside of actual competition and practice, regardless of the setting.
Individual conferences are working on their own COVID protocols. The Big Ten has said it won’t have conference-level guidance, but will allow schools to determine which protocols work best for athletes on their campuses.
Wednesday’s American Athletic Conference was the final conference to declare that there were no plans to reschedule football games canceled due to COVID, and that teams would be forfeited if they were unable to play due to outbreaks.
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