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Athlete Coronavirus Testing Types and Procedures

Back in December of 2020, the Southern Athletic Association officially announced that sports would be returning in January of 2021. The SAA released many guidelines that each competing college would have to follow in order to participate, the most significant being coronavirus testing. Every athlete in the SAA is tested at the very least once per week during season. 

At Millsaps, two different types of coronavirus tests are used: a BinaxNOW rapid test and a PCR test. The BinaxNOW tests are done at Millsaps and take fifteen minutes for results. The PCR tests are sent to Baptist Medical Center for results and usually take one to three days for results. Which test a student-athlete receives is dependent upon the sport they play. For example, during season football was tested Wednesday morning with a PCR test, and Friday morning with a rapid. While tennis, on the other hand, is tested on Monday and Friday mornings only with a rapid test. Which testing protocol a sports team goes through depends on how much contact there is and whether the sport is indoors or not. 

The PCR test is considered the “gold-standard” for testing and is extremely reliable because RNA from the swab is read. The BinaxNOW tests are a less reliable rapid test; however, they have yielded zero false positive or negative results so far at Millsaps. If an athlete receives a positive result from the BinaxNOW test, then they undergo a PCR test to confirm the results.  

Only two athletes have tested positive for coronavirus since the process began in January. The Millsaps student body has a very high percentage of athletes compared to other schools. This shows the exceptionable job that the Millsaps community has done this season.  

The testing process at Millsaps is fast. It takes place in the Hall of Activities Center (HAC) at 7 a.m., and athletes are usually out by 7:30. 

Baggy-eyed, PJ wearing athletes, who obviously aren’t used to waking up that early, show up at the HAC and line up with their team in the front hallway. When the testing staff is ready, the athletes walk to a station where they show their Campus Clear App to a staff member. The staff member will then provide the athlete with a swab and a sticker with the athlete’s name on it. 

Next, the athletes walk to the nasal swabbing station which is usually in the gym. At this part of the test, the athletes line up and a staff member goes around and swabs them. The athletes pray that they will get the swabber who only touches the inside of their noses instead of “scraping their brain.” After being swabbed, the first member of the team sneezes and squints in discomfort signaling to their team that its brutal or looks back and gives a thumbs up telling their team “it’s not that bad!” Once the team has been swabbed, they typically group up on the bleachers, lay on the floor, or stand around and await their results.  

After the BinaxNOW tests, the swabs are brought to a table where a reactant is dripped onto the swab, and lines appearing on a package will indicate whether the test is positive or negative. The PCR swabs are sent to Jackson’s Baptist Medical Center for evaluation. When a group receiving the BinaxNOW test is cleared with all negative results, a staff member will inform the group and dismiss them. Upon being cleared, some athletes go to the cafeteria for breakfast, head to their 8 a.m. class, but most go straight back to bed. 

The low positive test rate is result of school and athletic policies, individual team policies, and the Millsaps communities continued resilience in combatting the spread of the coronavirus.