Alabama AD talks vaccines, Delta variant impact as football season nears

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AL.com 20 July, 2021 - 06:02am 11 views

When is SEC Media Days?

SEC Media Days start Monday, July 19, and run through Thursday, July 22. The event will be live streamed on fuboTV. The event certainly will have its fair share of talk about the College Football Playoff expansion as well as name, image and likeness. There will also be a number of first-time SEC coaches at the podium. al.comSEC Media Days 2021 live stream: How to watch online for free, TV, time, full schedule

Instead of axing SEC Media Days, the Hoover chatter this July surrounds how the medical advances will impact Year 2 in the pandemic era. League commissioner Greg Sankey on Monday said six of the 14 football teams had reached the 80% vaccine threshold to curtail much of the taxing protocols like contestant testing that characterized last season.

Neither LSU’s Ed Orgeron nor Florida’s Dan Mullen wanted to say Monday if their rosters hit that 80% mark while South Carolina’s Shane Beamer told local writers they were “rapidly approaching” it, The Greenville News reported.

Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne, meanwhile, sat down with AL.com on Monday afternoon to discuss a number of topics facing a new academic year and the current state of COVID-19 was among them. Byrne declined to say if Alabama was among the six teams at 80% vaccination ahead of Nick Saban’s Wednesday appearance at SEC Media Days.

“We’re in a very good spot with our football team,” Byrne told AL.com, “and we’re working on the rest. Most of our departments are in a very good spot. We’re trying to work with teams that have a little bit of work left to do. But overall, department, we feel really good about where we are from a vaccination standpoint.”

RELATED: Greg Sankey: SEC teams could be forced to forfeit games this fall due to COVID-19 disruptions

Byrne has been outspoken on the issue of getting vaccination rates up not just in the athletics department, but in the state as a whole. Nick Saban recorded a PSA in May imploring fans to get the shot to ensure a safe return to normalcy in football stadiums including Bryant-Denny.

The difference between July 2020 and 12 months later is stark, Byrne said, but they haven’t declared victory over a pandemic that killed more than 11,000 people in the state of Alabama, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The concern now is the Delta variant that’s causing infection and hospitalizations to rise in the state that ranks at the bottom of vaccine participation.

“We’re concerned about that,” Byrne said “and we’re hopeful that when you see that the people that are getting hospitalized and are having significant issues, it, the high 90 percent of the people are unvaccinated.

“And we’re hoping that maybe that will encourage people who haven’t been vaccinated, to take a look at it again and have that be part of the solution to this.”

The fully-vaccinated share of 18-to-64-year-olds in Alabama sits at 34%, according to the CDC.

Byrne said months ago they planned on opening all 100,000-plus Bryant-Denny Stadium seats this fall after playing in front of just 20% capacity last year before vaccines were available.

The rising case count and lingering vaccine hesitancy haven’t altered those plans.

“We have every intention of full stadium,” Byrne said Monday.

Through Monday, Byrne said 90% of the football season ticket holders have renewed their seats “and we’ve also had a number of people sign up to be new season ticket holders too,” he said.

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Alabama Crimson Tide on AL.com 20 July, 2021 - 07:00pm

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