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'No way we can go forward with sports' with current COVID-19 testing capability, top NCAA doctor says


Some schools plan to play anyway

A general view of Maryland Stadium on August 4, 2020, in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

Many of the top college football decision-makers are split about whether to have a season this fall, but the NCAA's chief medical officer said there is "no way" any sports should be played in the fall with the current COVID-19 testing capability in the U.S.

What's this about? The NCAA has canceled its fall championships. College football, however, operates separately from the NCAA's authority, so several major conferences still intend to play football next month, even though other conferences have canceled the fall season.

NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline told CNN that the speed and availability of COVID-19 testing is not sufficient for a safe season.

"The pathway to play sports is so exceedingly narrow right now," Hainline said during a late-night CNN interview. "Everything would have to line up perfectly. … Right now, if testing in the US stays the way it is, there's no way we can go forward with sports."

Testing issues: Hainline said that discussions from the spring about how sports could eventually return assumed that over the course of the next several months, there would be an effective national testing and contact tracing strategy that would allow schools to better manage the risks of COVID-19.

With the start of the fall football season just weeks away, the availability of testing varies from state to state, as does the speed with which people can get their results back. In higher-volume areas such as New York City, there have been reports of a two-week delay in getting results back — which makes the test almost worthless, considering many people will recover from the virus within that time frame.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a rapid saliva test on an emergency basis, and the NBA has used the tests in its return. But those tests are not widely available enough for them to be a viable option for college sports any time soon.

Fighting for the season: The Big Ten and Pac-12, two of college football's elite conferences that have canceled the fall season, are hoping to play in the spring, although it's unclear how that will work if other conferences are playing in the fall.

Ohio State University quarterback Justin Fields initiated a petition on behalf of Big Ten players to bring the season back.

"We, the football players of the Big Ten, together with the fans and supporters of college football, request that the Big Ten Conference immediately reinstate the 2020 football season," the petition reads. "Allow Big Ten players/teams to make their own choice as to whether they wish to play or opt out this fall season. Allow Big Ten players/teams who choose to opt out of playing a fall season to do so without penality [sic] or repercussion."

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