Time From Start of Quarantine to SARS-CoV-2 Positive Test Among Quarantined College and University Athletes - 17 States, June-October 2020

Christine Atherstone, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Meaghan L. Peterson, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
MacKenzie Malone, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Margaret A. Honein, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Adam MacNeil, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Catherine S. O'Neal, LSU Health Sciences Center- New Orleans
Stephen Paul, The University of Arizona
Kimberly G. Harmon, University of Washington School of Medicine
Kyle Goerl, University of Kansas
Cameron R. Wolfe, Duke University Medical Center
Julie Casani, NC State University
Lisa C. Barrios, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


To safely resume sports, college and university athletic programs and regional athletic conferences created plans to mitigate transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Mitigation measures included physical distancing, universal masking, and maximizing outdoor activity during training; routine testing; 10-day isolation of persons with COVID-19; and 14-day quarantine of athletes identified as close contacts∗ of persons with confirmed COVID-19. Regional athletic conferences created testing and quarantine policies based on National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) guidance (1); testing policies varied by conference, school, and sport. To improve compliance with quarantine and reduce the personal and economic burden of quarantine adherence, the quarantine period has been reduced in several countries from 14 days to as few as 5 days with testing (2) or 10 days without testing (3). Data on quarantined athletes participating in NCAA sports were used to characterize COVID-19 exposures and assess the amount of time between quarantine start and first positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. Despite the potential risk for transmission from frequent, close contact associated with athletic activities (4), more athletes reported exposure to COVID-19 at social gatherings (40.7%) and from roommates (31.7%) than they did from exposures associated with athletic activities (12.7%). Among 1,830 quarantined athletes, 458 (25%) received positive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results during the 14-day quarantine, with a mean of 3.8 days from quarantine start (range = 0-14 days) until the positive test result. Among athletes who had not received a positive test result by quarantine day 5, the probability of having a positive test result decreased from 27% after day 5 to <5% after day 10. These findings support new guidance from CDC (5) in which different options are provided to shorten quarantine for persons such as collegiate athletes, especially if doing so will increase compliance, balancing the reduced duration of quarantine against a small but nonzero risk for postquarantine transmission. Improved adherence to mitigation measures (e.g., universal masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene) at all times could further reduce exposures to SARS-CoV-2 and disruptions to athletic activities because of infections and quarantine (1,6).