The Pac-12 unveiled an in-season testing plan Monday designed to reduce the on-field spread of coronavirus and eliminate the potential for players to be held out of competition due to false-positive results.
The protocols include the use of rapid PCR tests, which would be available on game day as a safety net in case the antigen tests produce a positive result.
In addition, air ambulance services will be available for any players or coaches who test positive while on the road.
The season begins Saturday with seven games in seven weeks.
Antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests but have a turnaround time of less than one hour. They will be administered to all players prior to practice and competition.
Traditional PCR tests are the gold standard but usually take 24-48 hours for results and must be processed in a lab.
However, rapid PCR tests can be evaluated within 30 minutes, providing the conference with a means of confirming — or voiding — a positive antigen test.
That would prevent players from getting held out of games due to false positives.
SafeSiteTM will serve as a 3rd Party Administrator to conduct the game day tests.
According to the conference: “If there is any positive antigen test result on game day, SafeSite will have a limited capacity to perform rapid-result PCR tests for confirmation (2 per hour).”
The rapid PCR tests were part of a broader series of protocols announced Monday that will serve as a baseline for the schools.
Per the news release, the plan is as follows:
— Daily point-of-care testing on each day of full practice, higher-risk of transmission activity, travel, and games;
— Minimum once weekly PCR test (in addition to daily point-of-care testing).
For football game weeks, the weekly PCR test will take place within 36 hours of game time for home team student-athletes and within 36 hours of travel departure for visiting team student-athletes;
— Any positive daily point-of-care antigen test must be followed by a PCR test within 24 hours;
— A third-party testing administrator will administer game day point-of-care antigen tests (and PCR tests as applicable) for each team and on-field officials;
— Game day air ambulance service will be available in case any individual tests positive while traveling for competition; and
— All testing protocols continue to be subject to state, local, and campus public health requirements.
Full details of the protocols for players and coaches, and home and road teams, are available here.