NCAA updates COVID-19 guidelines for winter sports

The NCAA released its updated COVID-19 guidance for winter sports on Thursday, adjusting its definition of "fully vaccinated" individuals and also updating its suggested protocols following a positive test.

"The omicron variant has presented another surge of cases across the country," NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said. "This guidance was designed to align with the latest public health directives. Given how the pandemic continues to evolve, it's important that staff on member campuses continue to work with their local and state health officials on protocols most suitable for their locations."

The NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group developed its new definition of "fully vaccinated" to account for vaccinations, boosters and other immunity factors.

Fully vaccinated individuals now include those within two months of receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, five months of receiving the Pfizer vaccine series or six months of receiving the Moderna vaccine series; and individuals who are beyond the aforementioned timeline and have received the booster vaccine.

Individuals within 90 days of a documented COVID-19 infection fall within the equivalent of "fully vaccinated."

The other noteworthy change in the newest COVID-19 guidance is quarantine and isolation periods.

The NCAA suggests five days of quarantine after a positive test if there are no symptoms or "symptoms are resolving." They also suggest masking around others for five additional days, except during athletic activities following a negative test.

Fully vaccinated close contacts do not need to quarantine, but should wear a mask when not participating in athletic activities. Unvaccinated close contacts should still quarantine for five days with no participation in athletic activities.

The new guidance comes after the CDC announced in late December its recommendations for shorter isolation periods, from 10 days to five days.