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BOISE — Despite just over 24 hours to prepare for changes to the Albertson Stadium vaccination policy, Boise State students still showed up for Saturday’s football game against Oklahoma State.

President Marlene Tromp, in conjunction with the CEOs of the two major health care systems in the Treasure Valley, released a letter around 4 p.m. Friday, announcing that students and their guests would require either a proof of at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccination or show a negative test for the virus, one day after the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare activated crisis standard of care statewide. The same is likely to be required for all fans who attend the Broncos’ next home game, on Oct. 2 against Nevada.

By the time the game kicked off at 7 p.m., the student section was mostly full, with only a small section in the upper north corner of the section sparsely filled, along with a few random empty spots in the upper deck.

But besides that, the students joined the announced crowd of 36,702, the fifth-largest crowd in stadium history, in cheering on the Broncos in a 21-20 loss to the Cowboys.

John Guerra, a student who was at the game with his young son, said he was thankful that the policy was put in place, especially since his son is still too young to get the vaccination. He attended last week’s 54-13 win against UTEP and seeing the large number of unmasked people left him uneasy.

“It was all over the place,” Guerra said. “Some people wore it and some people didn’t.”

It was a common complaint on social media after last week’s game, and the Boise State ticket office responded on Tuesday, reiterating its mask policy and announcing it would offer free vaccinations on site before Saturday’s games.

Boise State offered prizes to those who got vaccinated and those who showed proof of vaccination would get entered into a raffle for prizes like season tickets, autographed item and more. During a timeout in in the second quarter, a student was awarded 25 percent off her tuition in an on-field presentation. In the fourth quarter, a fan won a one-year lease of a Ford F150 pickup truck.

Boise State also had a street team handing out prizes to fans for wearing masks, although video shots of fans on the scoreboard often showed them still largely unmasked.

As of 90 minutes before kickoff, about 40 fans had taken advantage of the opportunity to get a vaccination shot.

Wilder resident Nancy Johnson and her husband, Edward, were two of those, both receiving their booster shot, a day after the FDA panel recommended a third shot for Americans 65 and older, while rejecting it for the general population. The Johnsons received their first vaccination shots in February.

“I’m very much in favor of vaccinations and I’m very much in favor of all the students getting vaccinated before they can go,” said Nancy Johnson.

Like Guerra, the Johnsons, who are season ticket holders, saw a lack of masks at last week’s game. But having been vaccinated, they both said they felt safe due to their vaccination status

“I’m a veterinarian, I’ve worked with vaccines all by life,” said Edward. “I’m not concerned (about) getting the disease due the fact that I’m vaccinated. But I really like getting the booster right now.”

Miles Pereira, another student who attended Saturday’s game, was in favor of the policy. However, he felt that announcing it so quickly before the game left some students out.

“It was very quick, so I don’t think students had a lot of time to prepare for it,” said Pereira. “Especially considering they wanted proof of a negative COVID tests and there’s only so many COVID they can produce for students. Especially if students already have the ticket, it’s sort of like a ‘hey, this is what you have to do, sorry if you don’t do it, you can’t come,’ I think it’s a little late notice. But I definitely do think it’s a step in the right direction.”

An interview request for Boise State Athletic Director Jeramiah Dickey, or another athletic department was declined by Boise State.

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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