In a move hailed as a “major step” toward a return of collegiate sports competition, the Pac-12 Conference announced a partnership with a diagnostic firm Thursday aimed at providing possibly daily coronavirus testing for student-athletes in contact sports.
The conference, which includes UCLA and USC, canceled the fall sports season last month due to concerns about COVID-19, suggesting that the impacted sports might be able to return to competition early next year, depending on the status of the pandemic.
Conference officials noted that a major part of that decision was the lack of a robust testing program providing frequent tests and rapid results. It was unclear if the new partnership with Quidel Corp. announced Thursday will prompt a rethinking of that timeline, but conference officials said it opens the door to a possibly earlier return of the impacted sports, including football.
“This is a major step toward the safe resumption of Pac-12 sport competitions,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “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, the industry leader in point-of-care antigen testing, will provide crucial research data that will benefit our members’ communities as well as the entire country.”
Testing machines and kits are expected to be delivered to all Pac-12 Conference athletic departments by the end of the month, and in the coming weeks, conference officials will meet with their “sport planning committees” to evaluate a possible return to competition.
Scott said the agreement with Quidel address concerns expressed by conference leaders last month, when fall sports were canceled, about the need for “more frequent testing, performed closer to game time and with more rapid turn-around time.”
Conference officials said the testing program will also help relieve local health authorities of the burden of carrying out contact-tracing.
“This is an opportunity to get our athletes back to activity in a careful and controlled manner while monitoring outcomes,” said Dr. Kimberly Harmon, section head of sports medicine for the University of Washington. “It is win-win for athletics and to better our understanding of strategies to prevent spread during sports.”
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