Pac-12 agreement paves way for daily COVID-19 testing
The Pac-12 announced Thursday that its schools will begin testing athletes in “close-contact” sports for COVID-19 on a daily basis after signing an agreement with Quidel Corp. for rapid testing, but that doesn’t mean an instant return to sports.
“This is a major step toward the safe resumption of Pac-12 sport competitions,” conference commissioner Larry Scott said. “The availability of a reliable test that can be administered daily, with almost immediate results, addresses one of the key concerns that was expressed by our medical advisory committee, as well as by student-athletes, coaches and others. At the same time, our partnership with Quidel … will provide crucial research data that will benefit our members’ communities as well as the entire country.”
The Pac-12 postponed all sporting events, including football, on Aug. 11 for the rest of 2020 with the intention of rescheduling them for the spring.
The conference said the testing program will reduce the amount of contact tracing needed, which will relieve “some of the burden on local health authorities as a result of removing or significantly limiting the spread of infection through athletics activity.” The cost to the conference was not revealed.
Returning to competition still will require the approval of public health officials in the areas where the member schools are located. Six schools — four in California and two in Oregon — haven’t been allowed yet to take part in contact practices.
Quidel testing machines and test kits are expected to arrive at each Pac-12 campus by the end of the month. Scott told The Athletic on Thursday that the testing availability could allow the conference’s basketball teams to begin play before Jan. 1, 2021, as was the previous target date.
The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball committees are proposing to begin the basketball season on Nov. 25.
“We are pleased to participate in this innovative arrangement that will help protect Pac-12 student-athletes and allow them to return to play while contributing to further understanding of the COVID-19 virus that will benefit all of society,” said Douglas Bryant, Quidel’s president and CEO. “With its well-established medical research program, the Pac-12 is an ideal partner to help us develop and document the most effective coronavirus testing protocol to serve our families and communities.”
More than one medical official saw the testing program as a positive development for all parties.
“This is an opportunity to get our athletes back to activity in a careful and controlled manner while monitoring outcomes. It is win-win for athletics and to better our understanding of strategies to prevent spread during sports,” said Dr. Kimberly Harmon, section head of sports medicine for the University of Washington.
“This will allow us to learn even more about the behavior of the virus, especially in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals,” said Dr. Doug Aukerman, Oregon State senior associate athletic director of sports medicine. “The implication is that this can inform the broader medical community on asymptomatic cases as well as our care and treatment for student-athletes.”
–Field Level Media