LSU will require all fans 12 years and older to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test at home games this fall. In consultation with various important decision-makers, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, LSU president William F. Tate and athletic director Scott Woodward, the decision comes out of concern for the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus. The policy will take effect for LSU's home opener against McNeese State on Sept. 11.
Fans at Tiger Stadium will be asked to show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine backed by the FDA. That includes those shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, both of which remain under emergency use authorization. Pfizer-BioNTech's two-dose vaccine received its full FDA approval on Monday. Physical or digital proof of a vaccinate card will be accepted upon inspection.
Those who aren't vaccinated will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of kickoff. Kids under 12 will not need to show proof of a negative test and wearing masks is encouraged, but not required. The school is still in the works with other measures like further masking requirements and pop-up vaccine sites.
"As the flagship institution of the state of Louisiana, our foremost responsibility is to ensure the safety of our students, our supporters, and our community," Tate said in a statement. "While we are aware of the diverse perspectives across the nation regarding masks and vaccinations, we must take all reasonable measures to protect our campus and community, not only on gamedays, but long after guests have left Tiger Stadium. The current threat to our lives, our health, and to our medical systems due to COVID-19 is overburdening our hospitals, and we must do our part to stop the spread."
LSU's announcement is one of the biggest of its kind as college football's 2021 season commences. It joins a small (but growing) group of schools to issue similar requirements for stadium entry. Certainly, it's setting a tone in the SEC, which is reportedly considering financial penalties for teams that cost the league television money.
The school's decision comes at a precarious time. Louisiana's vaccination numbers have increased in recent weeks as the Delta variant has ravaged the state, resulting in near records among both cases and deaths. As of Monday, nearly 60% of all adults in the state have received at least one dose, and just over 50% are fully vaccinated. However, less than 50% of the whole population remains partially vaccinated. Those numbers are still among the worst nationwide.
Policy-wise, it'll be interesting to see how many other schools follow this route. There will be more pressure on institutions to push the vaccine now that Pfizer-BioNTech has full FDA approval, and with another full endorsement for Moderna potentially on the way. That line of thinking is already making its way through athletic departments. Forfeiting for failure to have enough players is on the cusp of being a consensus among Power Five conferences. That means vaccine numbers have to be up.
And now it appears that will have to be the case for fans attending certain college football games, too.