SEC, Sun Belt update COVID-19 protocols to ease testing among those who are fully vaccinated

The SEC will not require fully vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic to participate in the league's surveillance testing program, according to an updated version of its COVID-19 protocols. As long as they have approval from their local health authority, fully vaccinated SEC staff and players also will no longer have to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.

The SEC's Medical Task Force adopted the regulation on March 19, according to a league spokesman, making the conference the first in the Power 5 to change its testing protocol for anyone who has been fully vaccinated -- meaning at least two weeks past the final vaccination dose, and the individual is asymptomatic.

The conference regulation still advises fully vaccinated people to "continue with mitigation strategies."

Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill told ESPN on Tuesday his conference has also adapted its protocol for fully vaccinated individuals.

"Right now, our policy is that if you're fully vaccinated, you do not have to be in the testing protocol, and you are not subject to contact tracing, and I would expect that that policy would continue on in the fall," Gill said. "And so that will give us an opportunity to kind of look normal. We're excited to invite band and spirit back; we're excited to invite fans back. We haven't made all those kinds of determinations on what those policies will be, but our intention is to have the fall of 2021 certainly look closer to the fall of 2018 and 2019, rather than the fall 2020, and welcome back our fans fully, and welcome back band and spirit to our football games."

While the ACC Medical Advisory Group hasn't made any changes to its current testing protocol, earlier this month it did tweak its guidance for quarantining. The regulation states that in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "fully vaccinated asymptomatic individuals are not required to quarantine following exposure to COVID-19." It notes that stricter requirements by local and state health departments "may supersede this guidance."

The American Athletic Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-12 also haven't determined new testing protocols yet.

"We have not made that decision at this time," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN. "Our medical personnel continue to monitor the changing landscape and we will make decisions as we receive definitive information."