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 tested routinely, according to the Indianapolis-based NCAA’s latest health and safety recommendations released Wednesday.
The updated guidance mostly follow CDC recommendations and come as football practices start across the country. They also come at a time when the highly transmissible delta variant has led to some regional spikes in COVID infections.
The NCAA recommends fully vaccinated individuals not be subjected surveillance testing before or during the season unless they exhibit symptoms, or based on a risk assessment of a documented close contact with COVID-19.
While unvaccinated individuals would have to quarantine if they came in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, those who are vaccinated could remain with the team while masking in public indoor settings for up to 14 days. That period of time could be shortened by a negative test or if an assessment determines the contact was not high risk.
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 would need to be in isolation for 10 days, and at least 24 hours after not needing medication to get past a fever.
“Current vaccination rates remain inadequate to provide community-level immunity,” said Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer. “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 new NCAA guidelines recommend masking for everyone during team travel and during indoor settings, and for unvaccinated individuals to mask and practice social distancing in most situations away from the actual competition and practice, regardless of the setting.
Individual conferences are working on their own COVID protocols. The Big Ten has said it will not have conference level guidance but allow schools to determine what protocols work best for athletes on their campuses.
The American Athletic Conference on Wednesday was the latest conference to state it had no plans to reschedule football games called off because of COVID, and that teams would be subject to forfeits if unable to play because of outbreaks.