RCTC plans for fall athletics amid COVID-19

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(ABC 6 News) – Rochester Community and Technical College is planning for a safe fall athletic season with new guidance from the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) strongly recommending all student-athletes to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing for athletes participating in contact sports.

It’s been over 600 days since the last time any of RCTC’s fall sports competed.

"We were hoping like everybody else that we would go into this year with a little bit more for lack of a better term normalcy but it doesn’t appear that we are going to get to that point," Mike Lester, Director of Athletics and Student Life at RCTC, said.

The MCAC has come out with a strong recommendation that student-athletes, faculty and staff in the conference get vaccinated. For the athletes that choose not to get vaccinated, they are required by the league to get tested for COVID-19 once a week.

"Which we hope is a little bit of motivation for our students to go ahead and get vaccinated," Lester said.

RCTC is hoping that once the testing is up and running once a week, they can bump it up to twice a week.

"We know from the guidance that if you test once a week, you do reduce the transmission of cases by about 60 percent. But if you can make that jump to twice a week, that jumps up to almost 90 percent, it’s about 86 percent," Lester said.

Student-athletes will need to be masked in facilities indoors like weight rooms, for indoor practices and for team meetings indoors regardless of vaccination status. But masking is not required during games or competitions.

"It’s been challenging but I tell you what, our students are pretty resilient and they want an opportunity to compete in something that they love and so we’re trying to help them do the best to keep those seasons going as long as they can," Lester said.

The hope is for the 200 plus athletes at RCTC, more will get vaccinated.

"You know athletics is really such a small piece of this. We want to make sure that our student-athletes are able to attend classes and be part of the campus community and be a part of the Rochester community," Lester said.