Here's How the Pac-12 Conference Says It Will Avoid False Positive Covid-19 Tests

Pac-12 Conference Covid-19 rules, explained

The Pac-12 Conference will implement daily “point-of-care testing” on each day of full practice, travel and games, the league office announced Monday. The daily tests will be antigen tests, so-called “rapid diagnostic tests,” which typically provide results within one hour or less.

The antigen testing supplements the conference’s molecular polymerase chain reaction tests. These PCR tests, which detect the novel coronavirus’ genetic material, are considered more accurate and reliable than other tests and will occur at least once a week. During football game weeks, the weekly PCR test will happen within 36 hours for the home team and 36 hours of travel departure for visiting away teams.

A PCR test must follow any positive antigen test within 24 hours, and a third party will administer the Covid-19 testing.

The conference believes the new Covid-19 testing protocols, including game-day air ambulance service for any athletes who test positive while traveling, will help it avoid “false” positive test results.

“We believe access to near-daily rapid point of care testing for contact sports will significantly improve our ability to prevent transmission of Covid-19 during higher risk of transmission activities and reduce the risk of travel,” the Pac-12 Covid-19 Medical Advisory Committee said in September when it announced the resumption of football, basketball and winter sports.

The Pac-12 Conference’s football season starts on Saturday, Nov. 7, with the Arizona State Sun Devils traveling to take on the USC Trojans in the Los Angeles Coliseum at 9 a.m. PT. The California Golden Bears host the Washington Huskies at 7:30 p.m. PT. ESPN will broadcast the game on national TV.

The Golden Bears are expected to place second in the Pac-12 North division, according to a preseason poll of media members that cover the Pac-12 Conference.

In the most recent AP poll published Nov. 1, California received three votes as the 18th team in the “others receiving votes” category out of the top-25, good enough for the “43rd” place.

Write for California breaks down the rest of the Pac-12 Conference’s Covid-19 testing protocols this football season:

When will the Pac-12 Conference cancel or reschedule a game?

The league recommends games be rescheduled or declared a no contest if a team or athletic department cannot or is unwilling to perform Covid-19 testing, isolate new positive cases, or perform adequate contact tracing.

Games may also be canceled or rescheduled if local public health officials, including campus or home state officials, report unsafe community transmission rates or an inability for local hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in Covid-19 infections.

Do Pac-12 teams have to field a minimum number of football players?

Earlier in October, the Pac-12 Conference announced “minimum thresholds” to play a football game, including at least 53 scholarship players available and at least seven offensive linemen, one quarterback and four defensive linemen.

Schools can choose to play a game with fewer than 53 scholarship players or the minimum number of position players.

Are Pac-12 coaches and other staff or officials tested for Covid-19?

Coaches will be antigen- or PCR-tested with a 24-hour turnaround at least twice a week if they cannot socially distance or have a positive antigen test confirmed by a PCR test. Like the football players, schools will test coaches before beginning travel to the stadium on game day.

Officials, including conference officials and referees, will be PCR-tested by the league office before they travel. They will also receive antigen tests before kick-off.

What other protective steps is the Pac-12 Conference taking to avoid Covid-19 transmission?

The Pac-12 Conference requires face coverings to be worn by everyone in the stadium and on the field. Acceptable face coverings include surgical masks, cloth masks and double-layer or thick-cloth gaiters — and all must cover both the nose and mouth.

Does the Pac-12 Conference allow fans to attend football games?

The Pac-12 Conference does not allow fans except for parents of players and only if local or state public health rules of the home arena or stadium allow.

The league says it will revisit the decision no earlier than January 2021, indicating the football season will be entirely spectator-free.

Recently, the University of California, Berkeley, sent an email to Berkeley residents advising them the campus and surrounding area around California Memorial Stadium, which may include Tightwad Hill, will be closed and “secured,” Write for California learned and reported exclusively.