Returning vaccinated Piedmont University athletes and students rejoiced in the fact that wearing a mask would be a choice for the fall semester of 2021. With the vaccine becoming more accessible around the United States this summer, unvaccinated students would be faced with a choice. They could either get the vaccine and throw away the face mask, gaiters and shields for good, or spend another semester in face coverings. Those protocols were set in place until late this summer.
However, six days before classes started for fall semester, all Piedmont students received an email explaining that everyone would be required to wear masks indoors on campus. With these protocols returning to campus, Piedmont is aiming for COVID-19 cases to be kept in check with the rise of the Delta variant. In addition to the new protocols, COVID-19 found a way to cancel all sport related activities for 96 hours, starting on the 8 of August. All athletes received emails from head coaches that COVID-19 testing would take place that evening or in the morning. The testing ended up taking place the next morning at 7 a.m., or for students with an 8 a.m. class, testing took place at 6:30 a.m.
Many student athletes began to question the closing of the facilities and wondered when they would open back up. With the safety of the Piedmont student body in mind, athletes who are unvaccinated would need to begin surveillance testing every week until the spread of COVID-19 decreases in the community. Surveillance testing would help reduce the risk of an outbreak on the Demorest campus. Athletic Director Jim Peeples hopes for another successful semester in battling the pandemic.
“The percentage is based on each campus and what the community infection rate is in their local community,” said Peeples. “Habersham County has been in the highest percentage of community spread, meaning we have to test 100% of our unvaccinated. We also have to test any vaccinated person who is having COVID-19 symptoms.”
Athletes around campus wonder how many more times they will have to wake up to be tested early in the morning. With Habersham County having a high infection rate and no signs of slowing down, it could be a long couple of weeks for unvaccinated student athletes. It will be even longer for fall semester athletes as testing will continue throughout the season.
“There are testing requirements for travel when teams are competing. When our teams travel for competition, we will have to test 100% of the travel party that is unvaccinated and any vaccinated person that has symptoms” said Peeples.
As Piedmont student athletes begin another semester amidst the pandemic, the safety of the student body will remain the top priority, even if that means early morning testing every week.