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Pac-12 unveils in-season COVID-19 testing protocols, including plan to diagnose false-positive results

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Utah coach Kyle Whittingham watches Utes practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. On Monday, the Pac-12 Conference outlined the league’s in-season COVID-19 testing protocols.

Utah Athletics

What will happen in the Pac-12 this season if a football player tests positive for COVID-19?

The conference on Monday released detailed information about how it will handle such a situation, as well as in-depth protocols for testing of players, coaches, officials and traveling parties.

The highlights:

  • Rapid daily antigen testing will continue as it has been done on each full day of practice, higher-risk of transmission activity, travel and games.
  • PCR (nasal swab) tests will be conducted at least once a week. On game weeks, the tests will take place within 36 hours of a game for a home team and within 36 hours of travel departure for visiting teams.
  • Positive rapid tests must be followed up by a PCR test within 24 hours. If the PCR test is negative, the student-athlete may be reinstated to daily antigen testing cadence and may return to activity (subject to local/state regulations and if deemed appropriate by institution’s medical staff).
  • Game day air ambulance service will be available in case any individual tests positive while traveling for competition.
  • All testing protocols continue to be subject to state, local, and campus public health requirements.

Here is a breakdown of minimum testing requirements for various groups of people involved in games.

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Information courtesy Pac-12 Conference

If there is any positive antigen test result on game day, SafeSite, the third-party responsible for testing, will have capacity to perform two rapid-result PCR tests for confirmation per hour.

Antigen tests should be completed four hours prior to kickoff. Testing will begin at least 6-8 hours prior to kickoff. For games at 12 p.m. or prior, the game day test may be administered the day prior to the game.

The hope is that the protocols will prevent anyone from participating in a game who may fall under the following categories:

  • Received a presumptive positive test result (without clearance),
  • Received a confirmed positive test result,
  • Had high-risk contact, or
  • Is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

If an individual tests positive within 48 hours following a game, the institution will immediately notify the opposing team and the conference office to allow for appropriate contact tracing to be performed.

Following recovery from COVID-19, individuals are exempt from surveillance testing for 90 days.

The conference also outlined the following policies on face coverings during games:

  • Face coverings must be worn over the nose and mouth by all individuals in the stadium and on the field.
  • Players may remove face coverings while in the field of play but must replace their face coverings once they have returned to the sideline.
  • OK: surgical mask, cloth mask, gaiter (double layer or thick cloth).
  • Not OK: face shield (may be used with other face covering specifically for nose and mouth).