Boise State ramps up stadium COVID protocols

Boise State University students will have to show proof of COVID vaccination, or proof of a negative COVID test, in order to attend Saturday’s football game at Albertsons Stadium.

The requirement is expected to apply to all fans — students and non-students — for Boise State’s Oct. 2 home game.

The news, announced late Friday afternoon, comes less than 36 hours after Idaho approved crisis standards of care — rationed health care — for a statewide hospital system overwhelmed by a record number of COVID-19 patients.

And it comes a week after football fans largely ignored a mask requirement, as Boise State hosted its first game in front of a full stadium since before the pandemic.

“Boise State was disappointed … that there was poor compliance with campus public health measures at the last home football game,” according to the statement, co-signed by Boise State President Marlene Tromp, Saint Alphonsus Health System President and CEO Odette Bolano, and St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO Chris Roth.

This spring, Gov. Brad Little issued an executive order banning state agencies from requiring so-called “vaccine passports.” The stadium policy does not require a vaccination, university spokesman Mike Sharp said, since fans must produce a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination.

For the week ending Thursday, Boise State reported another 90 coronavirus cases on campus, down from 104 cases the previous week and a record 127 cases two weeks ago.

Here is the full statement:

Throughout the pandemic and from the moment that crisis standards of care were declared in Idaho yesterday, our healthcare leaders, our State Board of Education executive officers, and the university have been in dialogue about practices and strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID in our community.

The university has been a strong supporter of the healthcare community (even providing critical PPE for healthcare workers and respirators during the pandemic) and of public health on campus. Launching a new public health office, Boise State cared for its students, successfully kept cases low (with no evidence of spread in our in-person classroom settings), and supplied testing and vaccinations for the larger community, improving public health throughout the region. 

Boise State was disappointed, after appeals by leadership in all of these areas for our fans to follow best practices, that there was poor compliance with campus public health measures at the last home football game. Campus has had strong compliance with these measures throughout the pandemic. The university had already developed new strategies to incentivize and increase compliance, and Boise State is taking additional measures at our game this week, including testing our students or requiring evidence of vaccination. We now believe that additional steps are necessary for the health and safety of our community.

The President of the State Board of Education says that the Board will soon meet to discuss potential guidance for future large-scale events, and we have been in consultation with the executive officers of the Board about updates to our COVID plan per Idaho Code 33-3730.

At this time, and in consultation with those executive officers, Boise State will require our students who are attending the football game on Saturday, Sept. 18, to provide a negative COVID test result or proof of first dose or complete COVID vaccination. For the Oct. 2 home football game, we anticipate that all attendees will meet this requirement. This window provides the time for both our healthcare system and our fans to respond to this requirement and permits people to make the choices that are the best for them and their families.  

The university understands that the game is fast-approaching and that this requirement will present some challenges; Boise State, our healthcare leaders, and Board leadership have been working around the clock since crisis standards of care were declared, and these actions are important to support the safety and wellbeing of our community.

Boise State plans to offer another mass vaccination event. Our healthcare system’s data has shown that 98% of patients in the ICU with COVID are unvaccinated. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you choose not to be vaccinated, you will have the option of supplying a negative COVID test for entrance. While outdoor football games have not been identified as super-spreader events around the country, Idaho has a much lower vaccination rate than many other states.

For this week’s game, Boise State requests that you not attend if you are ill or unvaccinated and untested and implore you to follow the public health practices — particularly masking and frequent hand washing — required by the university to prevent the spread of COVID. If you choose not to comply with public health measures, we ask you not to attend the game. We must have the cooperation of our fans to keep our community healthy and safe. 

We will continue to work together as we all move forward, both in community and in the face of the growing health crisis in Idaho.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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