LSU will no longer require vaccines, negative COVID tests to enter Tiger Stadium
BATON ROUGE - Amid a disappointing start to its football season and spotty enforcement of its own rules, LSU announced Friday it will lift coronavirus safety precautions at Tiger Stadium.
The school's athletics department said it will no longer mandate that attendees either be vaccinated or test negative for COVID within 72 hours of kickoff. Though the decision to require the shot was a controversial one among fans, enforcement of the rules was anecdotally inconsistent on game day during the first three home games of the season.
Friday's announcement came with extreme frustration for some longtime season ticket holders. One couple who cancelled their season tickets over the COVID guidelines this year told WBRZ the mixed messages being sent by the state are confusing.
"They can do all the numbers about the downturn in COVID, but COVID is still available for anybody," Mark Rumfello said. "So, why are you changing the mandates now? I got very aggravated with the flip flop."
Rumfello cancelled his season tickets this season over the pre-check mandates and vaccine requirements. He said season tickets have been in his family since the 1960's.
"It was very difficult because my mom and dad worked for LSU and got the tickets initially and my dad went," Rumfello said. "He passed in 1980 and grandfathered them into me. So we went every year from that point."
In a news release announcing the change in policy, the university pointed to a "consistent and significant decline in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations" as the main reason for its sudden about-face on the issue.
The Tigers opened the season with an away loss to UCLA and managed to put together wins against McNeese, Central Michigan and Mississippi State before falling to Auburn at home this past weekend.
The Tigers' next home game will be against Florida on Oct. 16.
"The pandemic isn't over. The games not over. You've got to finish the game and that's the same with the pandemic," Cody Worsham with LSU Athletics said. "We feel like we have a lead from August when the numbers were bad which is why we put measures in placed. The game isn't finished which is why we have to keep working."
Our Lady of the Lake, which worked with LSU to make this decision, did not have any doctors available to weigh in Friday. The Louisiana Department of Health also did not have any doctors available, but released the following statement:
The Louisiana Department of Health is aware of LSU’s decision to suspend COVID vaccine and test requirements at Tiger Stadium. The risk of COVID-19 infection remains high in Louisiana, which is why a mask mandate remains in place for indoor areas of Tiger Stadium. The CDC also recommends people consider using masks when spending time around crowds outdoors, and when there’s the potential for close contact with people who are not vaccinated.
Read the full announcement from LSU below.
With the consistent and significant decline in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations across the state of Louisiana and in the Baton Rouge area, LSU will lift its COVID-19 entrance protocols for football games in Tiger Stadium, beginning with the Tigers’ October 16th game against Florida.
In accordance with state and campus guidelines, all guests will still be required to wear masks in the indoor areas of the stadium.
“The COVID-19 rates in Louisiana have dropped dramatically across the state over the last couple of weeks, and today, the state has a positivity rate below five percent,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, Chief Medical Officer at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge and a member of the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force. “Because of this success, we are able to lift the vaccine and testing requirements for entry into Tiger Stadium. By balancing mitigation efforts and risk in the ongoing fight to end the pandemic, we can protect our community and safely celebrate the traditions that bring us together.”
Beginning October 16th, guests will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test upon entrance to Tiger Stadium. Gameday testing, fast pass preverification, and all other entrance-related procedures will no longer be in place, and masks will no longer be required in outdoor locations of the stadium for guests under 12 years of age.
“We cannot thank our fans enough for stepping up to help stop the spread while still supporting the Tigers,” LSU Director of Athletics Scott Woodward said. “Their commitment to protecting our community and supporting our student-athletes has never wavered. We remain fully committed to providing a gameday experience that is as safe and as enjoyable as possible for all guests, and we will continue to work with University leadership and rely on medical expertise to ensure we are taking reasonable and necessary precautions to protect the health of our community.”
COVID-19 in Louisiana has consistently and continually declined in recent weeks. Hospitalizations have decreased by 80 percent over the past seven weeks, and the state’s percent positivity is less than five percent, well below its August peak near 16 percent. Since August 1, the state’s vaccination rate has increased by 23 percent, with now more than 2.1 million Louisianans fully vaccinated.
“This is amazing progress,” Dr. O’Neal said. “But the game is not over. This virus will surge again, and Louisiana must be prepared before it arrives yet again by getting vaccinated. The vaccines we have are safe and effective, and getting vaccinated is our best shot at defeating COVID-19.”
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