The updated guidelines, according to the association, follow recent updates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including recommendations for quarantine and isolation. The guidance also addresses board considerations that differentiate the COVID-19 management in Tier 1 individuals based on their vaccination and immunity considerations.
The NCAA stated that for purposes of the winter guidelines, their COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group developed the definition of "fully vaccinated" that considers vaccination status and other immunity factors that could impact risks for Tier 1 individuals, including student-athletes and coaches.
Aside from those with documented COVID-19 infections in the past 90 days, the guidelines state that fully vaccinated include those who are within two months of completing the primary series of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (one dose); those who are within five months of completing the primary series of the mRNA Pfizer vaccine, or within six months of completing the primary series of the mRNA Moderna vaccine (two doses); and those who have received booster vaccines if they are beyond two months of getting their Johnson & Johnson vaccine or beyond five or six months of the mRNA Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
It was a victory for those who are saying that natural immunity due to previous infection offers robust protection against COVID-19.
Jacob Davenport, a baseball player at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, expressed support for the updated policy. "If I had known that the NCAA was going to change its guidelines, then I wouldn't have gotten the vaccine," Davenport said.
To manage COVID-19, the NCAA suggested five days of quarantine after a positive test. The isolation can end after five days if there are no symptoms, or if symptoms are resolving. Considerations were also made to include masking around others for five additional days. Those who are participating in athletic activities without a mask during days six through ten can be considered if they have a negative PCR/NAAT test or antigen test. (Related: Heart inflammation in teens explodes across US after FDA approves injections.)
The guidelines also extend to close contacts, and those who are not fully vaccinated are required to quarantine at home for five days with no participation in athletic events. They will also be required to wear masks for five additional days, although they can be considered to participate in activities without masks from days six to 10 if they can submit negative PCR/NAAT test or antigen tests.
With the omicron variant driving another surge of cases, NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said it is important that staff on member campuses continue to work on protocols that are suitable for their locations.
The adjustment to the protocols could result in schools rushing to get their booster vaccinations for athletes, especially considering that the omicron variant is surging around the country.
Currently, the omicron variant represents 95.4 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States. The variant is moving across the country, affecting events like college sports, which has already canceled six bowl games and over 200 men's and women's basketball games. Because of the speed with which omicron is spreading, officials believe cases will begin to decline in the next two to three weeks.
However, the new protocols are only considered to be recommendations, and conferences and individual schools can choose whether or not to adhere to them or create their own guidelines based on local health departments. The change in its definitions means that the NCAA medical group is already stretching beyond even the CDC, which does not yet require the booster shot to deem people fully vaccinated.
According to feedback from college administrators, officials are not yet considering the cancellation of winter championships, nor are they examining waiver modifications in qualifying for championships as was the case last year.
Watch the video below to learn more about NCAA standards during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This video is from the Martin Brodel channel on Brighteon.com.
Get more updates on how COVID-19 is affecting college sports at Pandemic.news.