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BREAKING: Boise State reverses testing and vaccine requirements for football due to healthcare demands for testing

Photo by Mackenzie Hudson

In a State Board of Education meeting Friday afternoon, Boise State president Dr. Marlene Tromp announced that attendees of the Oct. 2 football game in Albertsons Stadium will not be required to present a negative COVID-19 test for entry.

Last week, just over 24 hours in advance of the Sept. 18 home game, the university announced that students must provide a negative COVID test result or proof of vaccination for entrance. Tromp’s latest announcement removes that requirement.

According to Tromp, this decision was informed by local healthcare CEOs and Central District Health (CDH) officials, who said that testing unvaccinated football fans — possibly numbering in the tens of thousands — would strain the already limited supply of COVID tests in the area.

“They feel it would be an undue burden on the healthcare system right now for us to use that testing capacity for our football games,” Tromp said. “We can’t do the large-scale testing that we had originally hoped, given what we’re seeing in terms of the need for testing in the metro area.”

Coronavirus testing and vaccines will both remain available outside of Albertsons Stadium.

Rather than mandatory testing, the university will be randomly testing the student section.

Approximately 10 minutes after the State Board of Education meeting adjourned, the campus community received an email from university Chief of Staff and Vice President for University Affairs Alicia Estey with an optimistic outlook on the university’s COVID data.

A voluntary vaccination status survey was released to students, faculty and staff on Sept. 14. Though the survey doesn’t close until Sept. 27, both Tromp and Estey reported that preliminary data suggests the university has roughly an 88% vaccination rate.

“We think that’s really what’s keeping the virus at bay,” Tromp told the State Board of Education.

Estey’s email also included case numbers for the university, which have decreased steadily since peaking at an all-pandemic high in early September.

“Additionally, our campus positivity rate for the past week was 3 percent, a 46 percent drop (14 percent decline in case numbers) from last week and a 64 percent drop (39 percent reduction in case numbers) from our peak,” Estey wrote.

While Boise State’s infections decrease, deputy state epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) told the board on Friday that the previous week had set a 2021 record for infections among adults aged 18-29 across the state.

“We may have peaked,” Turner said. “There’s some sense that we may have peaked nationwide, however, I just want to point out that Idaho has been trending toward the higher end of model estimates for the last three months, so … I’d really like to see a couple more weeks before I celebrate that we may have peaked.”

As Boise State’s numbers begin to look more optimistic — in direct contrast with the rest of the state — State Board president Kurt Liebich said that this disparity is likely due to the protocols in place at universities.

“My personal opinion, based on what I heard today, is that our four university campuses might be the safest place to be in the state when you look at the protocols that they have in place,” Liebich said.

Albertsons Stadium
Photo by Mackenzie Hudson
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