NCAA updates COVID-19 guidance amid mounting schedule disruptions

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Schedule disruptions will be considered as the postseason draws nearer

FILE – In this March 14, 2012, file photo, a player runs across the NCAA logo during practice in Pittsburgh before an NCAA tournament college basketball game. NCAA basketball administrators apologized to the women’s basketball players and coaches after inequities between the men’s and women’s tournament went viral on social media. Administrators vowed to do better. NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt spoke on a zoom call Friday, March 19, 2021, a day after photos showed the difference between the weight rooms at the two tournaments. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

The NCAA has released updated COVID-19 guidance after the Centers for Disease Control changed its own guidelines amid rising cases spurred by the spread of the omicron variant.

One of the biggest updates to the guidelines comes with the development of its definition of “fully vaccinated,” now factoring in both vaccination status and other immunity factors. Now, according to the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, a “fully vaccinated” person includes anyone:

  • Within two months of having completed the primary series of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (one dose).
  • Within five months of having completed the primary series of the mRNA Pfizer vaccine, or within six months of having completed the primary series of the mRNA Moderna vaccine (two doses for both).
  • Who have received a booster vaccine if they are beyond two months of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or beyond five or six months of the mRNA Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, respectively.

Additionally, anyone who was documented to have COVID-19 in the past 90 days is considered the equivalent of “fully vaccinated.”

The NCAA also shortened its recommended quarantine after a positive test to five days, aligning with recent guidance from the CDC. Individuals are permitted to return after five days if symptoms are resolving or gone, while masking around others for another five days. If that individual tests negative, he or she can participate in athletic activities without a mask for the final five days.

Close contacts do not need to quarantine, but are recommended to wear a mask for 10 days when not actively training or competing. The NCAA says that athletic activities are permitted without a mask, but those contacted should test on day five.

“The omicron variant has presented another surge of cases across the country,” NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said. “This guidance was designed to align with the latest public health directives. Given how the pandemic continues to evolve, it’s important that staff on member campuses continue to work with their local and state health officials on protocols most suitable for their locations.”

These new guidelines come as the omicron variant helps fuel rising COVID-19 case numbers across the country while directly impacting the college athletics landscape. The schedules of both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have been affected, along with other sports, including WVU swimming and diving’s Backyard Brawl clash with Pitt.

The men’s hoops squad was especially struck by the virus when it traveled to Austin to face Texas without three of its players, including guard Taz Sherman, the team’s leading scorer.

Moving forward, the NCAA is going to take these absences into greater account as teams continue their conference schedules, according to a joint statement from the chairs of the Division I men’s and women’s basketball committees.

“Losses are still losses, and wins are still wins, but we will continue taking into consideration the absence of a coach or players, whether they are COVID-related or due to injury or suspension,” they said. “We therefore encourage teams to honor conference-developed scheduling and rescheduling policies when the appropriate number of safe and healthy players and coaches are available to compete.”

The effects of the schedule changes will also be considered as the committees meet in two weeks at the NCAA Convention.

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