Big Ten Forms Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases to Address COVID-19 Concerns, Resumption of Athletic Activities

By Dan Hope on April 20, 2020 at 3:30 pm
Kevin Warren
Thomas J. Russo – USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has formed a Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases to address concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the eventual resumption of athletic activities, the conference announced Monday.

Consisting of representatives from all 14 conference schools, the task force “was formed to provide counsel and sound medical advice to ensure the health, safety and wellness of the Big Ten’s students, coaches, administrators and fans,” according to the Big Ten's news release.

The task force is chaired by Dr. Chris Kratchovil, the associate vice chancellor for clinical research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Ohio State is represented on the task force by Dr. Susan Koletar, the director of the division of infectious diseases at the Wexner Medical Center.

“The Task Force leverages extraordinary expertise from across the Big Ten, tackling COVID-19 related issues important to student-athletes and athletic programs,” Kratchovil said in a statement. “Strong participation by all of the Big Ten universities has provided for a robust and synergistic team. The group serves as a resource to the entire Conference, addressing current infectious disease concerns, while preparing the Big Ten for the safe resumption of athletic activities in the future.”

According to the Big Ten's new release, the task force “has been working via weekly conference calls to assist the Conference and its member institutions with best practices both currently, in light of the fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic, and long term.” The group has already “provided input during Conference discussions regarding the cancellation of winter and spring sports competition during the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year and will provide critical guidance around return-to-campus decisions at the appropriate time.”

“These are unprecedented times in our world and the focus of any conversation taking place in college athletics right now is the health, safety and welfare of students and the public,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said. “We are truly blessed to have a collection of world-class research institutions with the resources and talented medical experts on campus that allowed us to quickly assemble this task force to address a global pandemic. We are thankful to have the Task Force in place moving forward to allow the Big Ten Conference to position itself at the forefront of this issue and to share best practices for the management of and response to emerging infectious diseases now and in the future.”

Ohio State announced Friday that it has also created a post-pandemic task force “to direct the return to appropriate on-campus operations once the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has been deemed contained.”

As of now, the Big Ten has officially suspended organized team activities through May 4, but there is currently no timetable for team activities to resume, and it's uncertain whether fall sports including football will be able to start as scheduled. Ohio State has canceled all on-campus events until July 6.

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