College football nearing return amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 7:35 AM CDT
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LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - With college football just over a month away, teams are busy preparing and fans are getting excited. However, there are still a few questions about how conferences and schools are handling the rising number of new COVID-19 cases.

The USM Golden Eagles are looking to right the ship under new Head Coach Will Hall. The Mississippi native spent Monday evening visiting with fans and alumni at the university’s Long Beach campus.

Dozens show up as a sign of the coast's eagerness for football's return
Dozens show up as a sign of the coast's eagerness for football's return(WLOX)

Last year, the team had two games rescheduled and two games cancelled due to COVID-19 related issues. Now, with the number of cases once again rising, Coach Hall says the medical staff is keeping the team informed.

“We leave that up to our medical people. They know all the ins and outs,” said Hall. “As a matter of fact, we have a team doctor coming in and talking with our guys in the morning just to educate them on what is going on. Educate them on the right way to handle things, educate them on the vaccine.”

Hall plans on giving his players all of the facts and then allowing them to determine what is best for themselves.

“I don’t ever want young men to base a decision off an opinion,” he said. “I want them to base them on facts from people who have the facts. We are constantly giving them those and we will update them in the morning.”

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has been dismayed by the rising number of COVID cases, tweeting Monday that it “didn’t have to be this way” and warning that a fourth wave is upon us.

Over the weekend, there were 2,326 new cases reported between 3pm Thursday and 3pm Sunday. With numbers going back up, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey encouraged all teams to get vaccinated, saying no games will be made up if a team has a COVID outbreak and are unable to play.

“Right now, 43 percent of our football teams - six of 14 - have reached the 80 percent threshold in roster vaccination. That number needs to grow and grow rapidly,” said Sankey.

Last fall, the biggest hurdle for teams was the number of players required to quarantine. Some games had to be rescheduled because at least one of the involved teams had too many unavailable players. Athletes who had a high-risk contact with someone infected with COVID-19 were required to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether or not their own COVID-19 test was positive or negative.

Now, according to SEC policy, fully vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic are not required to quarantine after an exposure to someone infected with the virus. Also, fully vaccinated athletes and staff can conduct activities within athletic facilities without masks, and individuals who are fully vaccinated are not required to continue in COVID-19 surveillance testing.

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