Heels Closing In On Herd Immunity
CHARLOTTE – New ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips made no bones about it that he would like to see everyone associated with athletics teams in the conference fully vaccinated as the coming sports calendar nears.
It would relieve the league and participating teams of potentially damaging consequences that are surely coming if they are not vaccinated and hit with COVID issues. The SEC recently announced it will not make up postponed games due to virus issues, and they could be ruled as foreits. The ACC has not yet determined what it will do, but it likely similarily will handles such problems.
Phillips, while delivering his first State of the ACC Address on Wednesday at the league’s annual Kickoff event, said teams must be at 85 percent vaccination to reach herd immunity, but some of the league’s football programs have not yet satisfied that goal.
“We have over half of our group above that 85-percent threshold with several others on the cusp,” Phillips said. “We all feel like that's a reasonable target across the ACC.”
One of the ACC programs not quite at herd immunity is North Carolina. But the Tar Heels are getting close, according to head coach Mack Brown.
“We're not at 85 percent for herd immunity with our entire team yet” he said, also Wednesday at the ACC Kickoff at The Westin. “We're getting really close.”
Could not being at 85 percent affect a team’s ability to play its entire schedule? Phillips said seven of the ACC’s 15 members, which includes Notre Dame, though the Fighting Irish have returned to Independent status for football this season, have mandates all students on campus must be vaccinated.
“It's not just split according to what you may believe, just publics and privates,” Phillips said. “Virginia Tech is a perfect example being a public in the state of Virginia, what they've done.”
All Tech students must submit verification they have been vaccinated in order to be on campus starting next month or receive an approved exemption by the school.
Notre Dame, which UNC visits Oct. 30, recently sent out a release to the media noting it will not credential any members of the press that are not fully vaccinated. There will be no exceptions. So could that affect players on visiting teams that are also not vaxxed?
There are no indications such stringent regulations will be placed on competing teams, but it will help if each club reaches herd immunity. Vaccinated athletes will not be subjected to contact tracing regulations, as an example. Phillips said the ACC is still working toward determining its COVID protocols for the coming fall, and Brown said his team is closing in on achieving iherd immunity.
“We have encouraged everybody to get it,” he said. “Some, as we know, across our country and our world do not want to get it. We understand that. That's fair. Our job is to educate; their job is to make personal decisions. That's the way we do for the NFL; that's the way we do with everyone in our program.
“But we have a great plan in place with what we've got to make sure that we get the numbers right in each meeting room for 85-percent herd immunity and our training table, in our locker room. That's what we're going to do. Eighty-five percent herd immunity we've been told means you can go back to a normal process. Maybe the unvaccinated people have to wear a mask still, and the vaccinated ones can wear a mask if they want that as an option. That's in our football building and in our football program.”
UNC’s players report for fall camp Aug. 4 and the first practice is Aug. 5. The opener is Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech.