With fall sports — football, most notably — fast approaching, the NCAA released its safety recommendations for conducting upcoming seasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine, conditions have improved considerably since this time last year. However, the delta variant has caused a spike in infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths over the last month or so. The NCAA recommends each school implement its own COVID-19 prevention and management strategies “in conjunction with federal, state and local public health guidance.”
At the same time, its medical teams have established guidance for testing, quarantine and isolation for both vaccinated and unvaccinated “Tier 1 individuals,” which include athletes, coaches and an array of other staff members.
NCAA: Vaccinated not subject to regular testing
During the season, those who are vaccinated won’t be subjected to regular testing unless they exhibit symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive. Unvaccinated individuals could be tested as many as three times per week and are expected to wear a mask and practice physical distancing “universally.” Those who are vaccinated are only recommended to wear masks “in indoor settings” and during team travel.
“COVID-19 vaccination remains the most effective means to achieve control of the pandemic. Available data indicates that the vaccines authorized in the United States offer high levels of protection against severe illness and death from infection with the delta variant and other currently circulating variants of the virus,” the NCAA document says.
“Despite widespread vaccine availability, current vaccination rates are inadequate to provide community-level immunity and vary significantly state by state and county by county.”
Forfeits are possible during 2021 college football season
Federal, state and local guidelines still take precedence over the NCAA, but these materials are meant to be a useful bookmark for schools across the country.
“These materials are meant to be consistent with guidance published by the federal government and its health agencies and reflect the relevant scientific and medical information available at the time of print. These materials should not be used as a substitute for medical or legal advice,” the NCAA said.
“Rather, they are intended as a resource to provide guidance for member schools to use in coordination with applicable government and related institutional policies and guidelines, and they remain subject to revision as available data and information in this space continue to emerge and evolve.”
Commissioners from multiple FBS conferences have said that forfeits are likely if a team cannot field a healthy team this season. With the lack of a COVID-19 vaccine, the 2020 season was marked by a steady stream of postponements.
Last year, additional time was built into the schedule to account for “disruptions” caused by cases of COVID-19 spreading throughout college football rosters. That won’t be the case during the 2021 season, which kicks off in less than a month.
More from Yahoo Sports: