If you look across your news feed, it’s clear to see the COVID-19 pandemic remains an ongoing, worldwide crisis.

After last year’s college football season ended and the development of several vaccines viable for public distribution became widely available, many thought we could start to put the previous 12 months or so behind us and turn our attention back to full college football stadiums without worry of catching and/or spreading COVID-19.

However, that is far from the case as the highly-infectious Delta variant has pushed the American medical system to critical levels not seen since the deadliest surges.

When Louisiana State University became the first school in the SEC to state it would require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for anyone age 12 or older to enter its football stadium for games, it was conceivable other schools in the region would follow. However, as of this writing, that has not happened yet.

The University of Georgia announced it would not mandate proof of vaccination, masks or social distancing at 90,000-plus capacity Sanford Stadium for the upcoming football season. That plan, of course, is subject to change, but it underscores a major problem.

COVID-19 positive tests and hospitalizations are trending up, not down.

According to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), Aug. 27 has seen the fifth-most positive tests statewide since the start of the pandemic, and the highest levels since January. The 7-day moving average statewide has quadrupled in the last month.

On Tuesday, the same day LSU announced its requirements for entry, Governor Kemp announced the deployment of National Guard medical personnel to hospitals across the state struggling to contain the surge.

The Clarke County Board of Health has even sent a letter to the university, asking it to reconsider.

Let’s be honest, UGA would not have any issues filling the stands at Sanford, requirements or no requirements, but it boils down to being safe and responsible. As a public institution, it is in their best interest to prioritize public health.

No one wants to revert to 2020 where we had reduced capacities, mask and distancing requirements, but we are far from out of the woods.

The thrill and pageantry, the wins and losses, the upsets and close calls that are all so deeply entrenched in college football will all still be there for the enjoyment of the masses, but safety must factor into decision-making, especially when massive-scale events are involved.

Over 90,000 people packed into a stadium does nothing to help alleviate the current health crisis. Frontline healthcare workers throughout the south are exhausted and it’s on us to do our part to help them.

This virus has proven time and time again we cannot let our guard down.

It’s time for the University of Georgia to take the lead and implement health measures to mitigate transmission of COVID so everyone can enjoy the fall season in-person safely.

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