Team “pauses” due to COVID-19 cases could be cut in half and there is new guidance on what exactly defines a “fully vaccinated” player, after the NCAA on Thursday morning updated its recommendations for winter sports like men’s and women’s basketball.
By afternoon, the Mountain West Conference’s Board of Directors approved and adopted the updated guidelines, which apply immediately for the UNM Lobo men’s and women’s basketball teams.
While state and local health guidelines still trump all, the NCAA adopted several recent changes recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As they most affect Lobo basketball, a fully vaccinated person is defined as anyone:
- Within two months of having completed one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine;
- Within five months of having completed both doses of the Pfizer vaccine;
- Within six months of having completed both doses of the Moderna vaccine;
- Or anyone who has received a booster, if they were vaccinated beyond those time periods.
Also, a person who has a documented COVID-19 infection is considered “the equivalent of fully vaccinated” for 90 days after the infections, the NCAA announced.
If “fully vaccinated,” as UNM has said 100% of both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are, players who test positive with COVID or are considered close contacts to a person who tested positive can now return to basketball activities after five days if they are showing no symptoms and provide a negative PRC or antigen test. That’s down from the previous requirement of 10 days away.
This provision opens the door for far more flexibility to return to the court without games being postponed.
The decision, say NCAA advisors, shows a much different reality from a year ago, when fans were largely kept out of arenas and teams were completely shut down for long periods if cases arose.
“We have tools. We know what works. We know vaccines work, we know boosters work, we know masks work and we have testing,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, Executive Associate Dean of the Emory School of Medicine said in a video interview posted by the NCAA.
“I think if we implement the strategies we know, we can actually continue doing things in a safe way, or in the safest possible way, rather than just retracting and saying we’re going to lock down.”
The Mountain West on Dec. 22 announced its “Adjusted” game cancellation policy due to COVID case counts on a team roster.
The biggest takeaways from that day’s news was games that couldn’t be played due to COVID cases within a program would no longer be counted as forfeits for the team with the COVID cases, but rather now merely be a postponed game that would ultimately be deemed a no contest if both teams are unable to find a workable makeup date.
There was also an established minimum number of players needed to play (seven). And team with seven healthy players who chose not to play would be given a forfeit.
Nowhere in the Dec. 22 updated game policies were quarantine times or program “pauses” addressed.