The Mountain West is adjusting its COVID-19 protocols in a way that could see a reduction of postponed games.

The Colorado Springs-based conference announced on Thursday afternoon that it would adopt new NCAA guidance for isolation periods. The big change is that fully vaccinated student-athletes will now be eligible to return after five days instead of holding out for 10 days.

The previous 10-day policy resulted in the Air Force men's basketball team playing on Tuesday without several key players, including starters Lucas Moerman and Joseph Octave. Had the new policy been in place, both would have been eligible to play at Colorado State.

This could also mean a quicker return for Air Force guard A.J. Walker, who tested positive on Monday. The Falcons don't currently have a game scheduled until Jan. 15 because of a postponement, but they are considering adding a new opponent.

The new NCAA guidelines follow recent updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The NCAA includes student-athletes who have had a documented case of COVID-19 within the past 90 days under its definition of “fully vaccinated.”

"The omicron variant has presented another surge of cases across the country," NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said in a statement. "This guidance was designed to align with the latest public health directives. Given how the pandemic continues to evolve, it's important that staff on member campuses continue to work with their local and state health officials on protocols most suitable for their locations."

The change in policy comes as the Mountain West has seen a rash of postponed games. Shortly before the announced change, the Air Force women learned their basketball game Sunday against Nevada would not be held as scheduled. The Air Force men have had two of their first four conference games postponed and on Tuesday were without four of their top eight players because of isolation guidelines.

Air Force coach Joe Scott noted after the close loss against the No. 20 Rams that the Falcons would not have been without some of those players had they been in a different conference.

The new NCAA guidelines suggest isolation for five days following a positive test, with the isolation ending after five days if symptoms have resolved. Return to competition can then be considered with a negative test.

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