SAN FRANCISCO (OnFocus) – The Pac-12 Conference announced that it has entered into an agreement with diagnostic test leader Quidel Corporation to implement up to daily testing for COVID-19 with student-athletes across all of its campuses for all close-contact sports.
For the complete Pac 12 Press Release, click here
The agreement is a major step toward the safe return of sports competition in the Pac-12. The arrangement with Quidel will provide for frequent testing with rapid results, which had been one of the key concerns in the prior decision by the Pac-12 to postpone sport competition. The testing will also significantly reduce the number of contact traces required and the breadth of contact tracing required, with the goal of relieving some of the burden on local health authorities, as a result of removing or significantly limiting the spread of infection through athletics activity. Any return to competition is subject to requisite approvals from public health officials.
Quidel’s Sofia 2 testing machines and tests are expected to be delivered to each of the Pac-12’s athletic departments by the end of September 2020. Over the coming weeks, the Pac-12 plans to review this latest testing breakthrough with its sport planning committees and to evaluate the impact on return to competition scenarios.
“This is a major step toward the safe resumption of Pac-12 sport competitions,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “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.”
Douglas Bryant, Quidel’s president and CEO, said: “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. 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.”
At the time the Pac-12 CEO Group voted to postpone sport competitions, they cited the need for “more frequent testing, performed closer to game time, and with more rapid turn-around time”, particularly in light of the uncertainties regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19. The access to daily testing addresses those concerns, Scott noted.
The Pac-12/Quidel testing program will be key to research efforts coordinated by the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative (SAHWBI) as well as the Conference’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee, which has been advising the Conference on COVID-19 issues. The Pac-12 SAHWBI’s Research Grant Program was established by the Conference and its member universities in 2013 and has studied brain trauma, mental health, cardiovascular health, and other health and wellness issues.
A key focus of the Pac-12 SAHWBI’s independent research initiative will be to document and determine if a testing protocol that involves point-of-care rapid testing immediately prior to practice or competition can decrease or eliminate the risk of infection from sport interaction as has been proposed by some experts. .
“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.
Dr. Doug Aukerman, Oregon State senior associate athletic director of sports medicine and chair of the Pac-12 SAHWBI Board, added: “This will allow us to learn even more about the behavior of the virus, especially in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals. The implication is that this can inform the broader medical community on asymptomatic cases as well as our care and treatment for student-athletes.”
In addition to significantly decreasing the risk of spreading the infection in student-athletes, coaches and staff members through sport, a daily testing protocol will also reduce the potential burden on local health authorities to carry out widespread contact tracing.
“Pac-12 universities and their medical research centers are performing significant and important research to better understand and combat COVID-19,” added Scott. “The study to be conducted with Quidel fits into the broader educational and research missions of our universities, and will provide important new data and information that will be beneficial to society more broadly.”
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