NCAA announces COVID-19 testing protocols

By Dylan Manfre

The NCAA released its testing protocols for the 2020-2021 college basketball season, which will begin on Nov. 25.

The highly-anticipated ruling confirmed multiple reports that the association will require student-athletes to be tested three times a week throughout the regular season. During the designated “preseason period” of Oct. 14 to Nov. 24, the guidelines call for student-athletes to get tested once a week.

“This basketball resocialization guidance is based on the best information available in a rapidly changing COVID-19 environment,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the statement. “It is predicated on the assumption that rapid testing capabilities will be readily available later this year. We will constantly assess emerging information as we prepare for the start of the basketball season at the end of November.”

The NCAA said if any Tier 1 individual — which includes student-athletes or people who are required to be near athletes regularly — is infected with COVID-19, the school should “consider quarantining the entire team, including coaching staff and other essential personnel who are part of Tier 1, for 14 days.”

The NCAA has not provided a plan for individuals needing to test out of quarantine.

College basketball is currently in the “transition period,” of Sept. 21 to Oct. 14. During this time, the NCAA said in the announcement that a “surveillance testing should be considered for 25%-50% of student-athletes and Tier 1 individuals every two weeks if physical distancing, masking and other protective features are not consistently maintained, plus additional testing for symptomatic and high contact risk individuals.”

Testing should commence one week before the season begins, according to the announcement. However, it is unclear when Rider’s three-times-a-week testing will begin because the nonconference slate has yet to be released.

According to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla, Rider secured 2,100 COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to be used specifically for the testing of its winter sport student-athletes.

Stasolla said the 2,100 tests are “about half of what we would anticipate needing and those are easily ordered at this point in time.”

This is different from the 200 total nasal and saliva tests the university began the semester with. Those tests are specifically for residential symptomatic students, according to Stasolla.

The rapid antigen test produces fast results that help people determine whether viral antigens are present in an individual.

Stasolla refused to disclose the full amount the school paid for the 2,100 tests, saying that they are “still determining the price.”

Stasolla said that the PCR-based tests that the Student Health Center possesses will only be used on symptomatic residential students. 

Both Stasolla and the NCAA acknowledged rapid antigen testing is less accurate than a PCR test, however, the NCAA suggested if an asymptomatic student records a false positive, they should receive a “confirmatory PCR test” just to make sure an individual is not infected with COVID-19.

Follow Dylan Manfre on Twitter for the latest on Rider Athletics.

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