The science behind the rapid-response antigen tests that could save the Pac-12’s season

The Pac-12’s return to competition depends on one unexpected development solving two momentous problems.

The late September arrival of rapid-response antigen tests — two months earlier than anticipated — will allow football teams to test players for Covid-19 immediately before practice and games, thereby preventing on-field transmission by pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic players.

Those same antigen tests, courtesy of a partnership with San Diego-based Quidel Corp., are central to clearing the other hurdle:

Convincing health officials in Oregon and California to lift state restrictions and allow the six teams to move forward with practice and competition.

The three NFL teams in California long ago received exemptions from the state, in large part because of their ability to test players on a daily basis.

The Pac-12’s testing plan, however, isn’t identical to the NFL model.

It’s better.

“From a theoretical perspective, it’s a very high bar, and you could argue that what we’re doing is a higher bar” than the NFL, said Dr. Kimberly Harmon, a University of Washington football physician and key member of the Pac-12’s  medical advisory team.

“The near-daily testing should keep the athletes safe.”

The Pac-12 would be wise to make that very case to authorities in Oregon and California — the sooner the better — in order to avoid getting left behind in what could be a costly race.

The Big 12 and ACC are playing.

The SEC gets underway in two weeks.

The Big Ten is on the brink of restarting its season, possibly in the middle of October.

At that point, the Pac-12 would be the only member of the Power Five on the sideline.

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The perception of the conference nationally, already poor, would deteriorate further.

“That’s on top of everyone’s minds,’’ commissioner Larry Scott told KJR radio in Seattle last week. “But health and safety take precedence.”

The rapid-response antigen tests are an escape hatch for the Pac-12— a means of keeping the players safe and salvaging the conference’s reputation.

They’re expected to arrive by the end of the month, for use on a daily basis by athletes in six contact sports: football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s water polo, and wrestling.

Harmon believes implementation could take several days, at least. Each school must train staff members to administer the tests, record the results and report the data to local health agencies.

Waivers must be signed.

Testing space must be created.

Protocols must be established.

“It’s not as simple as going to the drug store and buying a pregnancy test,’’ she said.

If the antigen tests are in place by early October, the conference could begin an abbreviated season in early-to-mid November — but only if Oregon and California lift their restrictions.

(Scott told KJR that it was “highly unlikely” the conference would proceed without all 12 teams.)

While Oregon Governor Kate Brown and her staff have hinted they would not let the Beavers and Ducks get left behind the rest of the conference, the political challenge in California isn’t so much about clearing a hurdle as it is climbing El Capitan.

The Pac-12 needs the antigen tests and

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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