Taylor Corley, editor-in-chief
The Southern Athletic Association (SAA) recently announced their updated policies related to COVID-19 precautions and guidelines in order to ensure that athletes are able to compete in the safest possible conditions.
With fall sports being cleared to compete in full capacity this season, all conference members have agreed to adhere to testing, quarantine and isolation regulations. According to Director of Athletics, Angel Mason, in adherence with the recommended guidelines, any student athlete who is not fully vaccinated will test twice a week in their offseason and will test three times a week when they are in their playing and practice season.
In order to compete, all Berry student athletes, as well as visiting athletes who are members of opposing teams, will be required to comply with these regulations.
“The last test must be within 24 hours of competition and if there are any positives during that time, the institution’s tracking and tracing will take place and whomever is still able to compete will determine if it is safe for us to go into competition,” Mason said. “And our opponents will be held to the same standards.”
If it is determined that it is not safe enough for a team to compete due to COVID-19 related restrictions, the SAA has stated that the game will be recorded as a forfeit and will not be rescheduled.
Along with the number of weekly COVID-19 tests athletes should take during their season, the SAA guidelines also explicitly state that fully vaccinated student athletes who are not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms will not require testing. They also state that unvaccinated and partially vaccinated student athletes who come in close contact with a confirmed positive COVID-19 case must follow public health protocols in regards to quarantining and vaccinated student athletes will not be required to quarantine, but are required to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure. According to the SAA guidelines, the 14-day masked period can be reduced in the case of a negative COVID-19 test three to five days after exposure.
In congruence with NCAA recommendations, Berry student athletes, spectators and competitors will follow institutional guidelines as well. The Conference as a whole came together and decided on precautions, they felt necessary to keep student athletes safe, according to Mason.
“The NCAA has recommendations but as a Conference, our presidents have decided, together, that it will either be vaccinated or unvaccinated student athletes will test in that cadence,” Mason said.
The SAA regulations state that testing of unvaccinated officials and policies regarding spectators should be at the discretion of the host/home institution. At this time, according to Mason, spectators are not required to follow any testing protocols.
“We will not do any testing of [spectators] or asking for them to show their vaccination card or a negative test,” Mason said. “What we will be doing is just as our campus policy is, indoors they must be masked and outdoors our visitors will be in their visitor section.”
Any policies and regulations of both the SAA and institution are subject to change at any given time. SAA leadership and Berry’s athletic administration will monitor COVID-19 developments and adjust accordingly.