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Westminster Athletic Trainer Explains Different COVID-19 Testing Protocols

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NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – With sports continuing to return to Westminster College, some Titan teams will be routine testing for COVID-19 throughout the season. Sports will be tested based on low, intermediate and high contact risk classifications.

“[The NCAA] are looking for two factors, that whether it is an indoor or outdoor activity, because of ventilation can be such a big factor. Some of the things that are indoor can be a bigger risk,” said Westminster Head Athletic Trainer Shaun Toomey. “They also look at the amount of sustained close contact associated with the sport”.

“For the low-risk sports there will be a baseline test, you will get an initial intake assessment on everyone. From that point it goes into symptomatic testing, so if someone is showing symptoms, they will get tested,” said Toomey on low contact risk sports. Tennis, golf and outdoor track and field are a few examples of low contact risk sports at Westminster.

Medium contact risk sports, or intermediate contact risk, makes up a larger chunk of Titan athletics. This group consists of mainly outdoor sports where athletes are only in contact with each other for short periods of time. Baseball, soccer and lacrosse are a few examples.

“For intermediate risk sports you are going to test a percentage of the team and the range is variable, the recommendation is anywhere from 25-50% of the roster every 1-2 weeks. So, you can be testing as much as half the team each week or 25% of the team every two weeks in terms of range. We've made the choice that depending on the sport, there are some that we are testing at the higher rate and others that are tested at the lower rate. The size of the team, the nature of the sport and how much close contact is associated with it,” said Toomey on the intermediate contact risk sports.

Volleyball sits in the middle of medium and high-risk sports depending on if the players are wearing masks. If the players wear masks, then the sport falls into the medium contact risk category. If players are not wearing masks the sport is upgraded to high-risk.

“With the high risk, they look at whether that is an indoor or outdoor sport. If you’ve got a high-risk outdoor sport, we can use a PCR test which tends to be more sensitive so you can do the entire roaster once a week with that. You could use an antigen test which tends to be in a rapid form, it takes 10-15 minutes, so you have an answer on site, those aren't as sensitive if you are doing that in a serial fashion and taking those test three times a week on non-consecutive days. If someone were to be infected and he didn’t have a high enough amount of the virus in his system to show up this time, then it’s going to show up the next time,” Toomey explained on outdoor high contact risk sports such as football.

Indoor high contact risk sports like basketball have been getting tests done three times a week. “When you get to a high-risk indoor sport, which is basketball because we don’t have wrestling or ice hockey here, those teams will be tested three times a week. That can be done with either PCR or antigen tests. There must be at least three tests per week on non-consecutive days.”

“When planning, it's almost like it doesn’t work, you know, being organized is very important. You never know when something is going to change. Also, we can't have team meetings, we can't have an area with all of us in one spot. If we had a team meeting it would be over Zoom. Even with practice, we all can't fit into the locker room at the same time. So, we have to schedule because we can only have ten people in the locker room at one time changing so you have to schedule them in there for fifteen minutes, thinking who has class until these times. All the small, detailed things you aren't used to thinking about. For gameday, you know for timeout situations are different, you have to have a seating chart, you have to have a bus chart for traveling to games. It’s a lot more to keep everyone safe and to keep us to be able to be playing,” said Women’s Head Basketball Coach Rosanne Scott on WCN’s Coaches Corner show. “Also, what people don’t realize is we are getting tested three times a week in the mornings.”

Additional protocols for all athletes, include daily screenings submitted every day before 10 a.m., regular handwashing, proper masking and remaining socially distant when possible is recommended.

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