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NCAA releases COVID-19 guidance for fall sports

Unvaccinated personnel will undergo a regular testing regiment, while the vaccinated won't be tested unless circumstances demand it.

With the 2021 football season to begin later this month, the NCAA on Wednesday released its COVID-19 test-and-trace protocols for fall sports. Much like in the NFL, the 2021 season will resemble 2019 for vaccinated persons and will be 2020 2.0 for the unvaccinated. 

The guidance comes as infections and hospitalizations are rising across the country and 39.4 percent of the country remains unvaccinated. 

"Current vaccination rates remain inadequate to provide community-level immunity," NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said. "It is essential that member schools work in concert with federal, state and local public health officials to develop COVID-19 prevention and management strategies that make sense for them."

In short, the NCAA recommends not testing fully vaccinated Tier 1 individuals -- basically: players and anyone that comes into contact with players, including game officials -- unless circumstances require a test. For the unvaccinated, schools are instructed to test upon returning to campus and to conduct regular surveillance testing. 

If as few as 5 percent of a team test positive, the NCAA recommends testing all symptomatic individuals and close contacts. 

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After a season in which Divisions II and III largely sat out the fall, the entire football world returns to action this fall. Thus far, only the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has installed a vaccine mandate for its athletics personnel. 

It remains to be seen if canceled and postponed games, a hallmark of the 2020 season, will return in 2021, and handling such occurrences will be left up to individual conferences. It's expected, though, that programs who can't field a team this fall will take a forfeit