Big Ten announces new COVID-19 testing partnership as football restart continues

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
In August 2019, the Big Ten logo is displayed on the field before an NCAA college football game between Iowa and Miami of Ohio in Iowa City, Iowa.

The Big Ten announced on Wednesday a new partnership with a pair of companies to administer a leaguewide daily coronavirus testing program for the coming football season.

As detailed in a news release, it said rapid antigen tests are being supplied by Quidel Corp. and overseen by Biodesix Inc.

Testing was implemented this week with teams permitted to transition into padded contact practices. An Ohio State spokesman said the Buckeyes practiced in full pads on Wednesday, though they were not hitting while going through an acclimation period.  

“Along with its medical and scientific capabilities as a certified laboratory, Biodesix is committed to helping the Big Ten meet the testing requirements and reporting protocols established by the medical subcommittee and adopted by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors,” read a statement from Dr. Jim Borchers, the head team physician at Ohio State who co-chaired the medical subcommittee for the conference’s return to competition task force.

“Quidel’s rapid antigen testing technology represents the ability to perform COVID-19 surveillance testing on a large scale with prompt results,” the statement continued.

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Daily testing was cited as one of the most significant reasons that spurred the Big Ten to reverse a decision to call off games for this fall and restart a season in late October.

“As we looked at testing options, we became convinced there was a path to move forward,” Borchers said during a Zoom call with reporters after a decision was reached..

When it first postponed the season in early August, the conference lacked a similar daily testing program, then requiring testing to be conducted only twice per week.

The Pac-12 is also using tests provided by Quidel as it plans to restart its season in November, the only other major conference with daily testing protocols.

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Players, coaches and other critical on-field personnel in the Big Ten will now undergo daily testing for COVID-19 in an effort to limit potential outbreaks. Teams that reach a positivity rate above 5% are required to pause practices and games for at least seven days.

During an interview on 97.1 The Fan earlier this month, Borchers said results from the rapid tests were to be available after 15 minutes. They are to be administered before practices and games.

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Presumptive positive cases will undergo additional polymerase chain reaction tests through the schools. Each university's chief infection officer will report the confirmed positive cases to the medical subcommittee.

The testing is also to be made available for athletes and staff involved in all close contact sports.

Games are scheduled to begin on Oct. 24, including Ohio State’s season opener against Nebraska.