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Lobo hoops teams to wait their turn for vaccines

As the phased allocation of COVID-19 vaccines continues to progress nationwide, some hospitals are finding they have extra doses after administering the first round to top-priority frontline workers.

But should there be any extra doses at the UNM Health Sciences Center, don’t expect the globe-trotting Lobo men’s and women’s basketball teams to try to jump the line to get vaccines anytime soon.

“We in athletics will not request or anticipate our teams being vaccinated prior to others in the community that are more in need (elderly, first responders, etc.),” UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez told the Journal in an email. “Of course we understand that having the ability to be vaccinated would be helpful moving forward, we will continue to adhere to DOH guidance and timeline regarding the distribution of the vaccine.”

The University’s administration – regents, president and athletics administration – did decide to relocate the two teams in order to practice and play basketball, which currently is prohibited in New Mexico due to the state’s public health order. It did the same with Lobo football, which spent Nov. 2 through Dec. 13 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in order to play.

By doing so, some have suggested UNM is putting coaches, trainers and UNM students (players and managers) at an increased risk of exposure by having them reside in public hotels, practice and train outside their own facilities, and travel commercially to games. The football team, however, chartered each flight.

On the other hand, the teams don’t exactly represent what is considered a high-risk demographic and, despite two positive tests forcing Lobo women’s basketball to pause team activities until next week, all three of UNM’s relocated teams have produced very low positivity rates among their Tier 1 travel groups. Three times per week PCR testing has continued, and players and staff are regularly confined to their hotel rooms – even for meals, when not practicing or at a game – to avoid larger gatherings.

New Mexico Health Secretary-designate Tracie Collins recommends this week that people interested in receiving the vaccine around the state should register online at and wait to be notified when their vaccine doses are available. A call center will be established this week, she said, to help people without internet access.

Collins estimated Wednesday that 62,000 to 68,500 vaccines have been administered in New Mexico out of 106,525 doses delivered to the state.

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