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Pac-12 enters rapid-result COVID-19 testing agreement that could speed return of sports

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pac-12-mens-basketball-nonconference-schedule-restrictions-2020-ncaa-tournament Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

When the Pac-12 made the decision to postpone sports until January, one of the requirements for resumption was improved testing speed.

The conference has made what it considers a “major step” in that area, announcing Thursday that it has entered an agreement with Quidel Corporation to implement “up to daily COVID-19 testing” for student-athletes across all of its campuses.

The Pac-12’s release says Quidel will deliver testing machines and tests to each of the league’s athletic departments by the end of September.

The testing machine is said to yield results “within minutes”, meaning athletes who are infected can be immediately removed from practice or competition, significantly reducing or eliminating the potential for an outbreak.

The release also notes that these tests lessen the importance of contract tracing, easing the burden on local health authorities.

“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.”

With this new testing agreement in place and the NCAA reportedly targeting a Nov. 25 start date to the college basketball season, it seems like the Pac-12 is gaining momentum to resume play earlier than its January target date.

However, it remains unclear what this means for fall sports like football, volleyball and soccer. The NCAA championships for volleyball and soccer have already been postponed to the spring, making competition before January extremely unlikely.

In addition to improved testing, the Pac-12 also wanted to see decreased community spread levels in Pac-12 regions before resuming play.

They also need more restrictive states like California, Oregon and Washington to approve any return-to-play measures.

“I won’t commit today to when we’re going to be returning to play in football or basketball because there’s additional issues we need to work through with our public health officials, with our campuses,” Scott said. “Make no mistake, thanks to Quidel and this partnership, this is a huge step forward. And we’re going to advance the data and knowledge.”