INDIANAPOLIS — March Madness is less than two months away and the entire tournament will be played in Indiana this year. Teams will be traveling from out of state and staying in Indianapolis with games being played at downtown facilities and surrounding areas.
The NCAA and Marion County Public Health Department put together COVID-19 health and safety protocols to be used during the tournament. The protocols focus on testing, social distancing and contact tracing.
Before teams even step foot in Indianapolis, each participant is required to have seven consecutive negative COVID-19 tests. The NCAA will work with IU Health to provide “health-related support including administration of daily PCR tests for Tier 1 individuals upon arrival and throughout the tournament.”
Tier 1 individuals include student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials.
Participants will also wear contact tracing devices from KINEXON during games and practices. NCAA said the devices will provide data that helps them track if someone was in close contact with an individual who tested positive.
People that had both doses of the vaccine at least two weeks before the tournament and haven’t tested positive for COVID-19 in 90 days will not have to undergo testing.
“Our emphasis is on the safety and well-being of everyone participating in the event,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline. “By working with local health officials to develop protocols and administer COVID-19 testing, we are confident we will provide a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches, administrators and officials.”
NCAA said teams will stay in a “controlled environment” similar to what we saw during the NBA. Marriott properties will house most of the participants.
Currently, plans are to limit spectators to six family members per team member or 450 people per game.
IU Health confirmed they are assisting the NCAA, but didn’t have any more details to share at this time. The Marion County Public Health Department said they are working closely with the NCAA to monitor cases and spread in the county ahead of the tournament.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said on Thursday that her team is communicating with health officials almost daily. Right now, the county is on track, but she said things can shift.
“Of course, we are on the right track right now, but in the back of our mind is that variant of the virus that we know is much more transmissible so that may impact for instance the number of spectators that are able to come,” Box said.
The NCAA and Indiana leaders are working to promote “Mask Madness.” It’s an initiative to encourage people to practice social distancing and wear a mask during the time. The NCAA will also be donating thousands of masks throughout the state leading up to the tournament.