Colleges and universities that have announced football game-day safety protocols are taking similar tacks, with face coverings required in indoor spaces and encouraged in seating bowls — regardless of vaccination status. Last week, AB Today reported that Louisiana State University, in the middle of a coronavirus hot spot, will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter Tiger Stadium.
Boston College Oregon, Oregon State and Tulane have done likewise for their home football games.
Conversely, The Salt Lake Tribune reports that University of Utah will not institute mask mandates, proof of vaccination or proof of negative test in order for fans to enter Rice-Eccles Stadium, at least as the season starts Thursday night. Utah is averaging about 1,200 daily cases, or 39 per 100,000 people in a state that's slightly less than 50 percent vaccinated, according to Mayo Clinic tracker.
At various times during the pandemic, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan cited that the athletic department is subject to state laws. Utah’s statewide mask mandate mostly ended in April, and there is a law blocking state government from requiring resident to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to The Tribune.
“What we’re going to do, what we’ve always done, is just encourage people to be as safe as they can, not only for themselves, but for others,” Harlan said. “We will be messaging masks as a great way to keep people as safe as they can, especially to our fans that will be in indoor sections of the stadium. We’re going to be talking about that quite a bit.
“As we have from the very beginning, since the vaccine was developed, we’re going to keep reminding people in the forums we have that vaccination is the way we can get out of this pandemic. We won’t be shy in reminding people of that.”
Meanwhile, the university at large has announced it will require students who attend in-person classes to get the vaccine. Harlan told The Tribune that his student-athlete vaccination rate as of Friday was 92 percent. Within that figure, football was at 94 percent and both basketball teams are already at 100 percent.
Utah's streak of 64 consecutive home sellouts was in jeopardy as of Friday, though stadium capacity has increased to 51,444 with the addition of the Ken Garff Red Zone. The Utes haven't played in front of fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium since Nov. 30, 2019.