The full college football experience returns to the Triangle on Thursday.
Carter-Finley Stadium at North Carolina State University will be hopping without any capacity limits for the first time since 2019. Fans will be allowed to fill the seats despite ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
More than 7,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported Wednesday in North Carolina. The state's daily positive rate sits just under 14 percent--much higher than the 5 percent the state has previously set as a goal.
Plus, August saw the highest monthly increase in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 during the entire pandemic. At last check, 3,757 people were being treated for COVID-19 in North Carolina hospitals.
At NC State's Thursday night prime time game, vaccines and masks are strongly encouraged, but they will not be required.
Since Carter-Finley Stadium is not enclosed masks will be optional except for when fans go into closed door areas, such as bathrooms.
According to NC State's policy, any fan who is not fully vaccinated "should continue wearing a face covering outdoors." However, there's no stated protocol for checking vaccination status or enforcing this policy.
The Wolfpack kick off at Carter-Finley Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
ECU vs App State
At the same time, a second game will begin in North Carolina. East Carolina University is taking on Appalachian State University in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium.
Mask guidelines at this game will be the same as the NC State game: masks are encouraged but not required in outdoor spaces.
Duke vs UNC Charlotte
The 49ers will host the Blue Devils on Friday night at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
COVID-19 protocols are more strict at this game. All visitors will be required to wear masks while they are inside the stadium.
The only time fans are permitted to remove their masks is while they are eating or drinking.
In addition, all tickets will be handled digitally and all transactions will be cashless.
The Tar Heels travel to Blacksburg on Friday to take on the Hokies.
Virginia Tech said its stadium will be at full capacity. Masks will be encouraged but only required in indoor spaces, such as "concourses, stairwells, elevators, restrooms, hallways between club spaces and/or suites, shops."
Old Dominion vs Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons host Old Dominion on Friday for its home opener.
Proof of vaccine will not be required for fans to enter Winston-Salem's Truist Field.
Face masks will be required indoors for all guests; they will be required indoors and outdoors for unvaccinated fans--but again, there's no stated policy for proving vaccination status or for enforcement of this rule.
Georgia vs Clemson
The prime time game on ABC this Saturday will be played in Charlotte between Georgia and Clemson.
Both teams are in the top 5 and expected to compete for a national championship this year.
Officials with Bank of America Stadium told the Charlotte Observer they expected more than 100,000 fans to pack the stadium to see this game.
Those fans will follow the stadium's COVID-19 protocols, meaning they will not have to prove vaccination status and only have to wear masks while indoors.