March Madness

What COVID-19 Regulations Are in Place at the NCAA Tournament?

Hanako Maki | The PHOENIXFans won't be able to pack the arenas to cheer on the Ramblers like they did in 2018 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Sporting events look much different now than they did before the pandemic, and this year’s NCAA tournament is no different. 

In addition to the COVID-19 guidelines players and other officials are following, spectators at games are required to follow rules to prevent the spread of virus. 

All season, Loyola men’s basketball players have been required to wear masks during practice, receive temperature checks when entering athletic buildings and use a special QR code scanner for every room in the athletic buildings for contract tracing and daily symptom checks. Despite these precautions, the “majority” of the men’s basketball team tested positive for COVID-19 in November. 

The Ramblers are set to compete against the Georgia Institute of Technology March 19 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis. 

The NCAA divides those attending the game into three tiers and each tier has its own safety guidelines, according to its website. Tier 1 consists of 25-30 people per university and includes players, coaches and other essential team personnel like physical therapists. 

All Tier 1 participants will wear KINEXON contact tracing devices throughout the entire tournament, according to an NCAA press release. These devices provide data on who comes in contact with the wearer and for how long. This data, along with video analysis, will be used to contact trace and determine who should quarantine if someone tests positive. 

All Tier 1 individuals are required by the NCAA to undergo and document seven consecutive negative tests before arriving in Indianapolis where the tournament is being held, the press release said. 

The NCAA is administering daily PCR tests for everyone in Tier 1 throughout the tournament, except for people who’ve had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and those who’ve been vaccinated. Even people who aren’t being tested still must wear masks and physically distance, the press release said. 

Tier 2 includes people who come in close contact with those in Tier 1, which includes athletic department employees and security, the website said. Tier 3 is made up of event staff including housekeeping, catering workers and journalists who don’t come in contact with Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals as frequently. Spectators aren’t considered a part of the tiers and follow separate guidelines. 

Everyone — except for student-athletes and officials on the playing surface — must wear masks at all times and remain six feet apart from each other, the press release said.

Only Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals have access to locker rooms, the athletic training room and court areas, the NCAA website said. Tier 2 individuals can only interact with those in Tier 1 with permission from the university’s health care administrator who’s responsible for managing COVID-19 safety guidelines.  

Up to six family members per Tier 1 participant will be allowed into each venue per game, but they won’t be able to interact with the participants. 

The venues where games will be held are allowing limited numbers of fans. The seating is arranged so groups of fans will sit at least six feet apart from each other, according to an NCAA press release. Spectators at NCAA Tournament games will be required to wear face coverings at all times and remain six feet apart from each other, according to the NCAA website

Fans are expected to review the health guidelines specific to the venue they’re watching the game in. The NCAA also asks fans to remain seated to avoid coming in contact with other groups of spectators and avoid interacting with student-athletes, coaches, team personnel and other officials, the website said. 

The Ramblers and the Yellow Jackets are set to tip-off March 19 at 3 p.m. CST at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will be broadcast on TBS. The winner advances to the second round of the NCAA and will play the winner of No. 1-seeded University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and No. 16-seeded Drexel University.

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