MAAC Mandates Vaccine for Student-Athletes

By, Pete Janny, Sports Editor

COVID vaccine mandates are becoming a popular method to try to curb the spread in certain public and private do- mains. The MAAC conference is following suit by making the injection mandatory for all student-athletes this academic year.

On Aug. 9, the conference announced the vaccine requirement which only allows exemption for medical or religious reasons. In addition to student-athletes, the rule applies to game officials and table staffers who will be in attendance at sporting events.

In the case of exemption, individual schools will need to keep track of which of their student-athletes qualify for immunity against the new statute. Then, the school is expected to relay that information back to the conference. If a student doesn’t get vaccinated nor meets the criteria for an exemption, their eligibility will be taken away.

The process of applying for exemption is the same for both student-athletes and regular students at Manhattan College. Because of federal guidelines, the athletics department is not authorized to obtain private health information about student-athletes without their consent — including vaccination status.

“There’s a group of campus officials that accept the application and take a look at it, and then they either offer the exemption or they don’t,” athletic director Marianne Reilly said. “Because of HIPPA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] laws we are not given all the information as to who’s on the list. Health services has that information and they share that information as needed.”

Reilly also noted that “our student athletes are going to be treated just like the rest of the students” in reference to the college’s institutional vaccine mandate.

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, student-athletes who are cleared for exemption will be subject to COVID-19 testing three times a week, or instead have to show proof of a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test either once per week or 72 hours before playing in a game. Most of the conference’s COVID-19 surveillance system is the same as last year, albeit with eligible unvaccinated student-athletes having to undergo the process on a routine basis.

“All of those things we followed as a group will now be individualized for those who are unvaccinated,” Reilly said.

The league also plans to release protocols for schools to follow in the event of an out- break within a given team. This includes preparations for quarantining, contact tracing and testing if the situation warrants them — regardless if those impacted are already vaccinated.

“Further discussion, and if necessary, modification of these principles will continue as public health guidelines and schools’ policies evolve in accordance with CDC guidelines,” the press release from the conference read.

Reilly is excited for the return of fans at games, while acknowledging her department’s responsibility to always put the health and safety of the college community first. The plans on handling attendance are fluid and can change at any time — and can even vary significantly depending on the school that hosts the athletic event.

“I do believe because of the vaccination mandate we won’t be as rigid as last year,” Reilly said “It all depends on the spiking and other schools’ protocols and to make sure our students are following their protocols as well.”

On Aug. 25, the Manhattan College athletics department formally released their policy for fan attendance at sporting events at Gaelic Park. The sole requirement to gain entry is to fill out the Daily Symptom Tracker found on the college’s website and the Glance MC Mobile App. While fans are advised to “stay socially distant throughout the contest”, there are no limits on the number of people allowed, or who could be there, as long as they present a green pass.

“Because it’s outdoors we don’t have to get into if a person is vaccinated or unvaccinated,” Reilly said.