Athletics going by the vaccine playbook

Athletics going by the vaccine playbook

Making the cut in sports at Pierce College will no longer just be about a player’s raw talent, speed or how dynamic they are on the field, but a question of whether they’re vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19. 

The Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees passed Board Policy 2900 on Sept. 1, which will require Pierce faculty, staff and students who plan to be on campus to show proof of full vaccination status or a weekly negative COVID-19 test starting on Oct. 18.

However, the school gave an extension. The new deadline for faculty is Nov. 3, while for students is Nov. 19.

Also, as a condition for employment, the policy will require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for those who have been approved for an exemption.

Pierce’s mandate comes on the heels of Los Angeles County’s vaccine mandate to cooperate with local health officials in taking measures to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 among its student body.

Pierce has partnered with Biocept that will handle the on-site baseline testing for COVID-19, and Cleared4 a monitoring service that the district will use to ensure faculty, staff and students are following the new protocols and provide contact trace reporting.

Director of Athletics Susan Armenta spoke about the importance for athletes to follow the guidelines.

“I think it’s an important mandate especially with athletics because they play high contact sports like football, basketball and soccer,” Armenta said. “It’s important to be vaccinated. It makes it a lot easier and safer for everyone involved.”

Exemptions to the vaccine mandate are available with the district, and requests can be made online. Athletes opting out of vaccinations can do so through the district’s online vaccine exemption forms. 

However, for the unvaccinated, weekly testing will be required. 

Athletes who fail to submit baseline tests will not be allowed to play until vaccination status or a negative test has been verified through Cleared4.  

Pierce College Health Center Assistant Loralyn Frederick explained how an athlete would qualify for an exemption.

“There are exemptions for medical and religious reasons but they must be approved by the district human resources,” Frederick said. “Baseline testing applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated; the only difference is that the unvaccinated will need to do weekly testing.”

However, Armenta said that athletes with an exemption would need to take time out of their personal schedule to take care of their weekly requirements.

“Unvaccinated students or those who miss their weekly baseline testing with our athletic department will need to get it on their own and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they can play,” Armenta said.

The fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 has ushered in a new era in college sports that will be measured on the vaccinated and frequent baseline testing for coaches, staff and athletes and not just games won. 

Volleyball athlete Lana Blourtchi said that because the players come into contact with a lot of people, it’s important for them to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The testing is really good in keeping all the athletes safe and helping stop the spread of COVID-19, because we see each other everyday in practice and we play other school teams twice a week, whether it’s them coming here or us traveling to them,”  Blourtchi said. 

Ana Rangel, an outside hitter on the volleyball team, said head coach Edison Zhou cares for their safety.

“He keeps encouraging all of us to get our vaccinations and to make sure that we test weekly,”  Rangel said. “If it wasn’t for the school pushing us to get vaccinated, I probably wouldn’t, but I feel safer now after getting my first shot.”