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Pac-12 announces COVID-19 testing initiative

Daily testing

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Conference Championship-Oregon vs Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12 took a step forward on Thursday, announcing a Coronavirus testing partnership with Quidel Corporation that will provide COVID-19 tests that can be administered daily to help identify and track the spread of the virus and limit outbreaks among athletic teams.

When all sports through the calendar year were postponed in August, one of the major concerns among the conference was the lack of daily, rapid testing to help monitor the spread.

With this new partnership, the conference and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott can now advance in their Coronavirus protocols. The Quidel Coronavirus testing machines named “Sofia 2”, are expected to arrive on Pac-12 campuses by late September.

Scott indicated that this daily testing is ahead of schedule, as he originally didn’t expect the initiative to take place until mid-November.

“This is a major step toward the safe resumption of Pac-12 sport competitions,” said Scott in a release from the conference. “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.”

Quidel Corporation is an American healthcare manufacturer based out of San Diego. They have been aiding in COVID-19 testing over the course of the pandemic, and have already provided “several” universities who are gearing up for a football season with Coronavirus tests, according to CEO Douglas Bryant.

The difference in this agreement with the Pac-12 is that the tests will be administered daily and in a matter of 15 minutes. Whereas, at other universities, the testing hasn’t been as frequent.

“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,” Bryant said. “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.”

Quidel has been doubling its assembly line in the wake of the pandemic, and this move with the Pac-12 should allow players to enter a COVID-free environment in practices and games given how quickly the test results are turned around.

“What this allows us to do through Doug and his company’s technology and the access we are able to get is to assure ourselves and our student-athletes and their families that they aren’t going to step onto a practice court or field and run the risk of infecting one another,” Scott said.

So now the big question...when can fans expect to see Arizona State take the field, and is there a chance for the Devils to play before January 2021?

Scott skipped around that answer and didn’t provide any concrete dates, but noted he is “hopeful” that this step will open up doors to play sooner, rather than later.

The conference still needs to discuss a plan of action for games among coaches and medical professionals to determine when the best date to start is.

Another factor is the Coronavirus regulations and guidelines among local governments in various states around the conference.

In his press conference, Scott mentioned that the conference would like to have six weeks of training camp to ramp up for the season, and that’s pending that local governments allow the universities to participate in those contact activities.

It’s a lot to ponder, but for now, there’s a positive in the fact that athletes can be tested daily in the near future and it will be easier to track cases and outbreaks among teams. Hopefully it can lead to something that everyone wants to see: college athletics back in action.

“Pac-12 universities and their medical research centers are performing significant and important research to better understand and combat COVID-19,” Scott said. “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.”