New rapid, daily coronavirus tests could save Pac-12 football and basketball seasons

The Pac-12 could play soccer and basketball sooner than expected after the conference announced Thursday that each of the 12 schools will soon have the capacity to perform rapid, daily COVID-19 tests on athletes.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott called the deal with Quidel Corp. QDEL,
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a “game changer”.

He said the ability to test athletes every day and receive results within 15 minutes could lead the Pac-12 to return to the game before the Jan. 1 date set by conference university presidents when have postponed the fall sports season to August 11. .

“This is a very important and meaningful step, but there are other considerations that will go into our plans to return to the game,” said Scott.

The six Pac-12 schools in California and Oregon are still not allowed to hold full practices due to state mandates to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. However, California professional football teams have been allowed to continue with normal preparations for a season that begins on September 13.

“Even if we were ready to start tomorrow, we couldn’t,” Scott said. “There is definitely more to do in terms of working with health officials.”

The Pac-12 said Quidel’s Sofia 2 tests and testing machines are expected to be delivered to conference schools by the end of September. Machines can perform what is called a point-of-care antigen test.

Doug Bryant, president and CEO of Quidel, said the company has agreements with several schools that are already using its rapid tests. He declined to say which schools and added that the partnership with Pac-12 is different from its other agreements because the company will provide the conference with the capacity to test for COVID-19 on a daily basis.

“Over the past month, we’ve doubled our shipping capacity,” said Bryant. “As we continue to increase production, we will have the opportunity to help other conferences if requested. “

In August, when the Pac-12 postponed its season, its medical advisers recommended that the frequency of athlete testing be dictated by the seven-day positive test rate and daily new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population in the counties where each school is located.

Back then, that meant Utah, Arizona, State of Arizona, Southern California, and UCLA all should have tested athletes on a daily basis. Several other schools were said to have been forced to test every other day.

Scott said when the conference made the decision to postpone fall sports, they didn’t think they would have access to this type of quick test until November at the earliest.

Conferences moving forward with football starting this month – including the Big 12, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference – have indicated that they plan to test their three soccer players. times per week.

“Having the ability and ability to immediately identify and remove a potentially infected person before entering the practice range really reduces the risk and eliminates the gap that currently exists with traditional laboratory tests,” said Dr. Doug Aukerman of Oregon. State. He heads the Pac-12 medical advisory committee.

A return to competition on Jan. 1 could also put the Pac-12 behind the rest of the country in basketball. Basketball season typically begins in early November, but Scott said the NCAA is considering delaying it until November or early December.

Quick, daily tests improve the Pac-12’s chances of starting on time.

“So I’m very optimistic that we’ll have a season,” Washington basketball coach Mike Hopkins said. “I think we definitely will, especially with the way this testing and this partnership goes forward.”

The Big Ten postponed fall sports on the same day as the Pac-12. As the Big Ten have been crushed with criticism from all sides, including a lawsuit by Nebraska players demanding that their decision be overturned, the Pac-12 presented a united front in favor of the postponement.

Scott said he considers it a “high priority” for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, Rose Bowl partners, to line up their return to football. The Big Ten discussed plans to start a football season as early as Thanksgiving weekend, although the conference focused more on an early January start.

“Not only for our student athletes could we have a championship game and a Pac-12 champion, but it would be great to have some of the traditional post-season opportunities that Pac-12 and Big Ten have enjoyed together. for many years, decades, ”Scott said.

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