ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise across New Mexico, some are asking why the University of New Mexico isn’t doing more to help stop it. One idea is a vaccine or negative COVID-19 test to get into The Pit.
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During a UNM Health and Sciences Committee Meeting on Tuesday, UNM Regent Robert Schwartz said people in the community are asking him why more safety protocols aren’t in place as cases continue to climb. He brought up the idea of a COVID-19 vaccine or negative COVID-19 test requirement for the thousands of spectators going to The Pit to watch a game.
“If you decide against being vaccinated for any reason — you still should be able to come and watch the Lobos, and there is a way to do that and that would be to require either a vaccination or a COVID testing for admission for the pit for those basketball games,” Schwartz said. “We ought to ask those people, who don’t have to be vaccinated, but if you aren’t then in fact show us a test so we know you are not positive now. That is not such a heavy burden.”
UNM President, Garnett Stokes, said leadership has been having this discussion for months and ultimately left it up to individual venues to decide on policy. For example, Pope Joy Hall decided to require vaccines. While Stokes says they haven’t gone as far as requiring medical-quality masks only, she defended The Pit’s mask mandate.
“We have been strict and we’ve had people removed from The Pit who were not following the mask mandate,” said Stokes.
Regents brought up concerns of a vaccine or testing requirement like the financial impact, hiring trained staff to enforce it, and the decision is seen as ‘political.’
“We’re concerned about the spread, we’re concerned about finances, and this is truly a balancing act,” said Jack Fortner, a UNM regent.
“There’s good and bad to it — for a lot of the people there in The Pit as well it’s a good idea because it keeps them safe,” said UNM student, Abed Jean Charles. “One of the bad things is like forcing people who don’t have the same beliefs to abide with the rules of the school.”
‘”I do think that’s a good idea just because you know, we’re living through a tough time. And just to know that we have an extra level of protection, to me, and for the person next to me, it’s just really nice to know that,” said Amanda Torres, another UNM student.
UNM’s athletic director, Eddie Nunez, also sat in on Tuesday’s meeting. He also defended the enforcement of The Pit’s mask mandate and said they try to keep the facility as clean as possible. KRQE News 13 reached out to the athletic director for further comment but did not hear back.
No decision was made at Tuesday’s meeting. The issue may be discussed further at the next Board of Regents meeting or in a special, public work session.