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Status for “full Grove experience” during 2021 football season still uncertain

The University of Mississippi announced last month they would return to a full in-person experience for the 2021 Fall Semester, but that may not include all of the amenities.

One of the biggest questions following the university’s announcement is, ‘Will the Grove reopen for the football season?’ During the 2020 Ole Miss football season, the Grove was closed to fans and tailgating was not allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attending a football game at Ole Miss involves one of the largest outdoor group gatherings in a concentrated area – the Grove – making it one of the first things that was canceled last fall during the pandemic.

Despite a decision being made to return to a normal semester beginning in August, Ole Miss has not made any decisions regarding if the in-person experience will include Saturdays in the Fall.

Any kind of firm decision or announcement may not come until much closer to September.

“I don’t have, at this point, enough visibility into the uptake of vaccinations and herd immunity to get a feel for how that might impact the Grove experience,” said Ole Miss Provost and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Noel Wilkin. “It is certainly my hope that we return to the full Grove experience. We are doing everything we can to roll out vaccines and help people become aware of why that’s important, so that will increase the likelihood and probability of that happening.”

Ole Miss received 1,700 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and began administering doses at the C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum to all eligible campus faculty and staff on March 12. As of Friday, the school will have administered all of the allocated doses.

As of now, there are no new dates available to schedule appointments to receive the vaccine at the “Tad Pad,” but Wilkin stated they are working with the Mississippi State Department of Health in trying to get another shipment in the coming weeks.

On Monday, Governor Tate Reeves announced all Mississippians were eligible to receive the vaccine, starting on March 16. While Ole Miss works to receive more doses of the vaccine to administer on its campus, all members of the campus community can sign up for a vaccine appointment at other sites by visiting covidvaccine.umc.edu.

The first home game for Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in 2021 will be against Austin Peay on Sept. 11, followed by Tulane on Sept. 18.