Kirby Smart, the coach of Georgia’s Bulldogs college football team, recently revealed that four of his players had gotten Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). In addition, a “couple staff members” also got the disease. In a teleconference with reporters, Smart stated that he was very concerned about the issue.
“For us, we’re at our highest spike. And people are talking about vaccinations, well these are people that are vaccinated. We’re talking about breakthroughs, and so that concerns you not only for the players on your team that are unvaccinated, that are playing and not playing, because we want everybody to be safe. But it concerns me for the players that are vaccinated that we could lose them,” Smart said.
Just last week, Ron Courson, sports medicine director for Georgia, was diagnosed with COVID-19 and did not travel with the team for one of its matches. By August, over 90 percent of Georgia’s players, coaches, and other members of the staff had received COVID-19 vaccine shots. Despite such a high vaccination rate, four players ended up getting infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In a later teleconference, Smart stated that five members of the team, including players and staff members, were infected. Fans who wish to attend the games are not required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has stated that unvaccinated student-athletes should wear masks and socially distance themselves during meals and team meetings while participating in the fall competition. In contrast, vaccinated individuals only need to wear masks during some indoor activities. The Bulldogs compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the NCAA.
“Schools may require COVID-19 testing of all unvaccinated student-athletes upon their arrival to campus and regularly throughout the semester, while fully vaccinated students could be exempt from testing if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms or have not come in close contact with someone infected,” the NCAA said in an update.
In an Aug. 18 document outlining COVID-19 management during the fall competition, the NCAA stated that unvaccinated athletes will have to undergo testing within three to five days of arrival. Until the test results are received, they are prohibited from participating in training sessions or competitions.
In addition, they must submit to testing three times a week. Fully vaccinated athletes are exempt from the test, with the sole exception being if they come into contact with a person known to have COVID-19.