Tufts University modified their COVID-19 policies for the winter of 2021 and now the spring of 2022 athletic season for all sports teams and clubs. Nowadays, athletes no longer need to take rapid COVID-19 tests on competition days, which was required during the spring 2021 athletic season. Additionally, spectators who are vaccinated and masked are allowed to attend indoor varsity games once again.
Michael Jordan, university infection control health director, explained why Tufts decided to make these changes.
“The university has a highly vaccinated population — our students have received a vaccine and booster,” Jordan wrote in an email to the Daily. “Additionally, we are currently testing all student athletes every other day. Together, this markedly decreases risk of infection.”
When the Daily received requests for comment, Tufts was still requiring students to test every other day. The university now asks students to test twice per week.
Despite all of these measures taken to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, it is inevitable that some students and coaches will still contract the virus. John Morris, Tufts' athletics director, explained how the university handles athletes that have tested positive.
“When a student-athlete tests positive for Covid, we follow the guidance provided by the campus health professionals on a case-by-case basis consistent with the protocols applicable to all students,” Morris wrote in an email to the Daily. “Individual student-athletes have been held out of practice and competition as appropriate, and to help protect the campus community, a number of winter sport competitions have been postponed or canceled due to positive cases.”
Since most students, professors, faculty members and coaches at Tufts are fully vaccinated and boosted, student-athletes are hoping to move forward with their season as normal.
Meg Hatton, a player for Tufts’ women’s varsity lacrosse team, described her main concern with beginning the spring athletic season.
“This year we have had a lot of teammates contract COVID over break and right before preseason,” Hatton, a sophomore, wrote in an email to the Daily. "It definitely has delayed us, but not as much as last year. … COVID always remains a threat to our season, but this year our main concern is less over having our whole season stopped, and more about players testing positive and not being able to play.”
Kate Lee, a sophomore on Tufts’ women’s varsity field hockey team, discussed how she and her teammates are often with each other outside of practices, so contracting COVID-19 while in practice is not her main concern.
“I felt very confident that I wouldn't get Covid during practice,” Lee wrote in an email to the Daily. “We were usually outside, and on top of that, everyone was strictly adhering to the Tufts testing policies.”
Hatton agreed with this sentiment.
“With most of our practices outside, and with all of our team lifts and meetings inside with masks, I feel very safe in organized team settings,” Hatton wrote. “If I were to be nervous about contracting COVID, there are so many other spaces on campus where we are closer to others for a longer period of time.”
Hatton believes the frequent testing that athletes are required to comply with is sufficient in protecting their safety.
“I feel in between on the rule about testing before games,” Hatton wrote. “I think it definitely was a good idea last year, however it utilized a lot of money and resources. Also, using rapid tests that are known not to be as accurate may not have a significant impact. Our team gets tested every other day regardless, so ... I am not sure that it is necessary.”
Morris explained that the university will constantly revise its policies to keep up with the ever-changing nature of COVID-19.
“No additional policy changes are being discussed at the moment, but as Covid conditions continue to evolve in the weeks ahead, we will regularly revisit the Covid-19 policies and how they apply to varsity and club sports, intramurals and fitness activities,” Morris wrote.
Morris also shared his optimistic thoughts about the rest of this semester.
“With the encouraging trends in case numbers over the last couple of weeks, we are looking forward to having full varsity and club sports seasons this spring,” Morris wrote.