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Vanderbilt’s baseball players, like all the private school’s students, are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to stay in school for the 2021-22 school year.

N.C. State, meanwhile, highly encourages vaccination for its students, faculty and staff as it plans for return to in-person instruction beginning in August, according to the schools’ websites.

Those two facts became relevant in the College World Series on Friday and Saturday when positive COVID-19 cases were found via testing of the Wolfpack’s team.

The NCAA, in conjunction with the Douglas County Health Department in Omaha, Nebraska where the tournament is played, ruled N.C. State unable to continue participating and ruled the game a no-contest.

As a result, the Commodores also find themselves in the College World Series championship series, scheduled to start Monday night.

N.C. State played Vanderbilt short-handed on Friday, with only 13 players — including four pitchers — in uniform, and lost 3-1. The teams were supposed to play again Saturday with the winner moving on to the best-of-three College World Series championship series against either Texas or Mississippi State.

But at 2:10 a.m. Saturday morning, the NCAA announced the Wolfpack’s season was over due to COVID-19 protocols and Vanderbilt would move on to play for the championship.

“The decision to remove North Carolina State from the Men’s College World Series was made by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee and the NCAA Medical Team due to ongoing COVID-19 transmission among teammates,” Douglas County Health Department Director Adi Pour said in a statement emailed to The News & Observer.

According to the NCAA’s COVID-19 protocols posted on its website, fully vaccinated players and other Tier 1 individuals (coaches, support staff) with no COVID-19-like symptoms may be exempt from routine testing. Student-athletes and other Tier 1 participants who are not vaccinated must continue to undergo testing at NCAA championships.

The guidelines also include an important caveat that “should state or local authorities require testing of vaccinated individuals, their guidance will supersede this policy and vaccinated individuals will be required to be tested.”

Pour, in his Saturday statement, said his department “has provided testing and investigation support to the NCAA to assist in its investigation of potential cases and its decision-making. This has been a strong and successful partnership.”

Were the Commodores’ players tested for COVID-19?

N.C. State coach Elliott Avent, during a news conference on Friday night, wouldn’t say if he was vaccinated or if he requested or urged his players to do so.

“I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to talk about that,” Avent said. “If you want to talk baseball, we can talk baseball. If you want to talk politics or stuff like that, you can go talk to my head of sports medicine, Rob Murphy.”

This isn’t the first time this season the Wolfpack saw its baseball schedule altered due to COVID-19. Back in March, N.C. State canceled a scheduled ACC series against Duke “due to the presence of COVID-19 within its program and accompanying contact tracing measures,” according to a statement released by the school at the time.

On Saturday, Vanderbilt declined to say whether or not its players were tested for COVID-19 while in Omaha, even after they played the Wolfpack on Friday.

Vanderbilt to require vaccinations

Vanderbilt’s decision to mandate proof of vaccination for employment or to enroll as a student is somewhat controversial. The federal government is allowing COVID-19 vaccines to be administered an Emergency Use Authorization.

Unlike vaccines for diseases like polio, mumps and measles, which have been required for decades, the COVID-19 vaccine is so new that not enough data has been gathered about its safety and efficacy.

Thus the emergency use authorization.

Still, some private universities — like Vanderbilt and Duke — are requiring the COVID-19 vaccine while public schools — like N.C. State — are not.

The courts have yet to rule if such mandates should be allowed.

University of California law professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, who specializes in legal issues related to vaccines, wrote in a blog post the law does allow such mandates and the reasoning for private entities is solid.

“The data behind them so far is extraordinarily strong, showing high levels of safety and effectiveness,” Reiss wrote. “This data is as strong as the data behind fully authorized vaccines, weakening the claim that the vaccines should not be mandated because they are experimental.”

Still, entities such as N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill and other public universities aren’t implementing vaccine mandates.

Vaccines in Douglas County, Nebraska

Back in Omaha, Pour said his department “plays a public health assurance role to ensure that the NCAA has protocols in place to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among teams and to the community.”

In its latest COVID-19 update published Friday, Douglas County reported 67.3% of its residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 49.5% are fully vaccinated.

The NCAA and Douglas County are allowing spectators to attend College World Series games at the stadium’s full capacity without mask mandates or social distancing requirements.

Strict rules are in place capping the number of people allowed in dugouts and media attending games are not allowed to conduct in-person interviews or access the playing field.

Coronavirus cases at NC State, Vanderbilt

According to its online dashboard, updated Thursday, N.C. State reported four active COVID-19 cases among its students. The school reported six people in isolation and nine in quarantine.

Vanderbilt’s dashboard was last updated on May 1. It reported zero positive cases among its students at that time.