WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Bipartisan leaders and health experts are calling for #COVIDSafeZones on college game days as the college football season begins and the COVID-19 Delta Variant spreads. With more than 890 colleges and universities joining the President's COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge, the COVID Collaborative and the Autonomy 5 Conferences are working together to encourage vaccinations for teams, students and college sports communities to slow the spread of COVID in the United States and protect our students from the effects of COVID and Post-Acute Symptomatic COVID (PASC), which is increasingly being recognized among our youth.
In a new letter, the COVID Collaborative provides recommendations for college and university leadership to use the energy and spirit of the college football season to increase vaccinations in communities. This includes setting a goal for teams to be at least 90% vaccinated to keep players safe and inspire communities, or even instituting a "vaccination to play" rule. The COVID Collaborative and Autonomy 5 Conferences have also put out a statement on #COVIDSafeZones and game day safety endorsed by the medical directors of the major college sports leagues.
"Coaches and players can make a real difference in promoting vaccination among fans," said Andy Slavitt, former White House Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response and former Acting Administrator of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Our collaboration with the Autonomy 5 conferences indicated vaccination rates among student athletes including football were over 85%, with more than half the schools greater than 90%. Those are numbers we would love to see among their fans."
"It is imperative that we come together to fight this pandemic, and college sports can provide great examples for how we can have safe gatherings again this fall, if we have the right strategies," said Robby Sikka, Chair of the COVID Sports and Society Workgroup and former Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. "Conferences and institutions should be recognized for raising the bar and promoting public health, and getting student-athletes broadly vaccinated. COVID Collaborative and the Autonomy 5 conferences sharing this data shows what the standard should be across the community. It's very impressive what the conferences and the commissioners have done, and it's why we should continue to be optimistic."
The letter also encourages colleges and universities to work with local vaccine providers, such as pharmacies or healthcare services, to host vaccination events in conjunction with the football season and provide benefits and incentives to vaccinated attendees like exclusive events and special seating. The COVID Collaborative has provided guidance for schools wishing to plan vaccination events this fall, and with week 1 of the season approaching, institutions in each of the conferences will be supporting vaccination events.
"We urge the leagues, universities and teams to build on the effective steps they can take to engage their players, fans and communities to beat the pandemic as we head into the fall," said Mark McClellan, director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and former FDA Commissioner and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator. "We see these recommendations as temporary measures until we are back to low COVID-19 rates."
When possible, the COVID Collaborative recommends that college sporting events require proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID test to attend in person. If this is not possible, they recommend following the latest recommendations on masks from the CDC and improving ventilation for indoor areas.
"Americans love college football and millions will gather every week to watch their favorite teams," said John Bridgeland, Co-Founder and CEO of the COVID Collaborative and former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. "With the FDA granting full approval of the Pfizer vaccine this week, we have a unique opportunity to boost vaccinations within college sports communities and keep everyone safe."
The letter is available at https://www.covidcollaborative.us/covidsafezones-sports.
The COVID Collaborative is a national assembly of experts, leaders and institutions in health, education and the economy and associations representing the diversity of the country to turn the tide on the pandemic by supporting federal, state, and local COVID-19 response efforts. The COVID Collaborative has #COVIDSafeZones campaigns with the business community, higher education, and college sports.
SOURCE COVID Collaborative