The NCAA announced its updated COVID-19 guidances for all fall sports on Wednesday afternoon. The guidances are recommendations set forth by the association for athletics programs to consider along with CDC, local, federal and state guidelines.
"Current vaccination rates remain inadequate to provide community-level immunity," NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said in a statement. "It is essential that member schools work in concert with federal, state and local public health officials to develop COVID-19 prevention and management strategies that make sense for them."
The guidelines issued by the NCAA advise alternatives for individuals on programs who are fully vaccinated.
While COVID-19 cases saw a considerable drop as of January 2021, the emergence of the delta variant has caused a surge in serious cases across the United States. As such, the NCAA suggests that masking remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors for unvaccinated individuals and in indoor settings for those vaccinated.
"Despite widespread vaccine availability, current vaccination rates are inadequate to provide community-level immunity and vary significantly state by state and county by county," the NCAA's guidelines document reads. "However, because of emerging evidence that the delta variant is highly transmissible, and that fully vaccinated individuals can become infected by the delta variant and transmit COVID-19 to others even when asymptomatic, the concept of community-level immunity becomes less relevant. Instead, prevention strategies become paramount."
Individuals who are fully vaccinated will not need to undergo routine testing. However, should they experience COVID-19 symptoms or be exposed to someone who has contracted the virus, testing is to be administered.
Those who are unvaccinated will be expected to undergo testing within three to five days of arrival on campus. Additionally, unvaccinated individuals will also need to take part in weekly PCR/NAAT testing or antigen testing three times a week.
In athletics activities, both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will not be required to wear masks during training and competition. However, unvaccinated persons must don masks during team travel.
At the 2021 SEC Media Days, Alabama coach Nick Saban revealed that his team was approaching a vaccination percentage of 90 percent. The SEC's current guidelines no longer require testing if a team breaks the 85-percent threshold.
The considerations provided by the NCAA are to be viewed by athletics directors, coaches and conference officials. Per the NCAA's guidances, each institution is allowed to ease or tighten restrictions based upon the local rate of cases of COVID-19.
Below are the full list of recommendations made by the NCAA. You can read the document in its entirety here. The NCAA noted that due to the frequently changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, the considerations are expected to be updated.