MOORHEAD — Concordia College will require its student-athletes to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a change in school policy that comes one week before classes are scheduled to begin.

In a campus-wide email sent Thursday, Aug. 19, the school said it reviewed campus vaccination data and was not confident it was going to reach its goal of having 85% or more of its student body vaccinated.

That, combined with regional COVID transmission rates rising, led Concordia to mandate student-athlete vaccinations.

"These indicators, in combination with recently communicated NCAA guidelines for athletic practice and competition, lead us to adjust our vaccination expectations for student athletes," the email said.

Student athletes are required to receive their first dose no later than Aug. 27 and their second does no later than Sept. 24. Classes begin Aug. 26.

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The school said that requirement is in accord with current vaccination requirements for students who participate in college sponsored travel such as music ensembles.

"A lot of it has to do with the travel. We had earlier required a lot of our traveling organizations to require vaccinations, but were waiting for NCAA guidance for athletics," said Concordia spokesman Josh Lysne. "When that guidance came down recently, it was updated with extensive protocols for non-vaccinated athletes vs. vaccinated athletes and that helped lead to our decision."

Concordia listed several vaccination sites where students could receive their shots.

Concordia and Bethel are the only two schools in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that do not require all of their students to be vaccinated. Most of the private, faith-based institutions in Minnesota have required all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated before returning to campus.

Concordia will require masks in all classes, laboratories, and studios, according to the email.

"Faculty members may remove their masks during class, to be easily heard, if they can maintain social distancing. Masks are also required in public indoor spaces and in workspaces where distancing cannot be maintained. Masking requirements will be in effect until reviewed on September 17," according to the email. "Unvaccinated individuals continue to be required to wear a mask indoors at all times."