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Pac-12 sees early success with new antigen COVID-19 testing system

It’s another win for fans who hope to see Pac-12 football this fall.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Arizona State at Arizona Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the reports (and Nebraska’s president) are to be believed, the Big Ten will be back on the football field before the end of next month. (Update: They were)

So... What about the Pac-12?

The CEO group and conference officials are still talking through the specifics, but there are still some roadblocks in the way. The biggest block right now are state governments from around the conference footprint, namely Oregon and California. While the Beaver state is staying quiet on what’s next, players in the Golden State are starting to put the pressure on state officials.

The second biggest roadblock is finding a way to return to action safely. Earlier this month, the conference announced a “groundbreaking” agreement that will allow schools to test players every day and receive results within 15 minutes. But will that plan work?

Universities are slated to get proper equipment by the end of the month, but one school in the Conference has already conducted tests, and they like what they see.

According to a report by Jon Wilner of the Mercury News, Arizona has had the same system in place since the spring. They’ve conducted about 25,000 tests on students, athletes, staff members and ICU patients.

The results?

“It only seems to get better the more you do it,” said David Harris, the executive director of Arizona’s Biorespository and the man that oversees the testing program at the University.

The tests from Quidel are known as antigen tests, while the traditional tests are called PCR tests. Historically, PCR tests have been the standard in detecting disease, for everything from influenza to COVID-19, but they usually take 48 hours to process in order to see the results. The antigen tests are thought to be less accurate, but wasn’t necessarily the case in Arizona’s study.

They found that the tests were 96 to 98 percent accurate, which matched Harris’ experience with PCR testing.

“We decided we didn’t need anything else,’’ Harris said. “This was the test to use to get rapid feedback.”

While they may be a little less accurate historically speaking, the ability to test athletes and other people involved in programs on a daily basis more than make up for the small difference. It’s also cheaper than a traditional PCR test at an estimated $21-$23 as opposed to $30.

The Pac-12 and the players in the conference are hoping this testing model will persuade state officials to let them re-take the field, maybe as soon as November. But the wheels of government bureaucracy are slow, and the Pac-12 is playing the waiting game for the time being.

Pac-12 football: Coronavirus antigen tests give promising results
The University of Arizona has been using Quidel Corp.'s rapid-result antigen tests for months and found them to be as accurate as PCR tests in detecting Covid-19.


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