You might have heard about a new coronavirus test from SalivaDirect — cheap, quick, not especially invasive, easy to scale up for large distribution numbers — in recent weeks. That certainly represented a step forward for college football and American universities at large in their attempts to contain the coronavirus.
By Matt Zemek
However, that SalivaDirect test still needed to be taken to a lab, a big logistical delay and hurdle in the attempt to provide test results with maximum speed.
For college football to have any chance of realistically working this fall, the sport and the universities trying to support it both needed a quick test which had all the traits of the SalivaDirect test, but with one added ingredient: the ability to not have to go through a lab for test results. If a test result could be provided on-site, without the need for transportation of test materials and subsequent evaluation of the result itself, that would be a true game-changer for college football.
Wednesday, on a day with dozens of different huge news stories, college football might have found the test which will change the equation in a good way.
Abbott Laboratories was given the green light by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a coronavirus test whose results could be determined in 15 minutes, without the need to have the test kit and materials be transported to a lab. This is the step SalivaDirect (whose test is still very good and a meaningful advancement in the fight against COVID-19) wasn’t able to take.
It really could be true — though we don’t know this for a fact — that the SEC, ACC, Big 12, and also the AAC, Sun Belt, and Conference USA, waited long enough for a difference-making test to emerge, and that they could all salvage some or all of a college football season.
The cautionary note we have to mention is that this is testing, not a vaccine. Yes, testing and tracing really help in containment, but this is just one part of a larger initiative to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and with LSU and Oklahoma having some problems with COVID-19 spread this week, one can’t exactly say that the course of events is proceeding smoothly toward the playing of a season.
What also has to be noted is that the North Carolina State-Virginia Tech game in the ACC, originally scheduled for September 12, has been pushed back to September 26. North Carolina State’s program and campus have run into coronavirus-related containment problems. If one ACC game has already had to be rescheduled, one can expect at least a few revised dates of games during the season, which in turn creates the distinct possibility that the remaining six FBS conferences won’t be able to play their full schedules.
Plenty of complications and hurdles remain on the road to a college football season, very much including the SEC and its member schools. Yet, the Abbott Labs coronavirus test could be the breakthrough the SEC and other conferences needed in the attempt to play football.
Here’s hoping for the best.