LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Pac-12 conference on Thursday announced a partnership with a diagnostic company that may conduct daily coronavirus tests for athletes involved in contact sports.

The conference, which includes UCLA and USC, canceled the fall sports season last month for health reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said that after January 1, 2021 – a spring season for football – they might consider returning to competition for affected sports should unspecified conditions improve.

Conference officials noted that a key part of this decision was the lack of a robust testing program that provided frequent testing and quick results, but that the partnership opens the door to a potentially earlier return of the sports involved, including soccer.

"This is an important step towards the safe resumption of Pac-12 sports competitions," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in a statement.

“The availability of a reliable test that can be performed on a daily basis with almost instant results addresses one of the major issues raised by our medical advisory committee, as well as athletes, coaches and others. At the same time, our partnership with Quidel, the industry leader in on-site antigen testing, will provide critical research data that will benefit our member communities and the nation as a whole. "

Test machines and kits are expected to be shipped to all sports departments of the Pac-12 conference by the end of the month.

Conference officials will meet with their "sports planning committees" in the coming weeks to evaluate a possible return to competition.

The testing program will also help relieve local health officials of the burden of contact tracing, officials said.

"This is an opportunity to get our athletes moving again in a careful and controlled manner while monitoring results," said Dr. Kimberly Harmon, director of sports medicine at the University of Washington. "It's a win-win for athletics and for a better understanding of strategies to prevent spread during sports."

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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