The quest and the tests to bring sports back are coming through Toronto

A Toronto doctor and a Toronto investment company are at the centre of attempts to bring sports back after two months of lockdowns due to the coronavirus.

Dr. Glenn Copeland, the director of medical services for the Ottawa Redblacks and a team doctor with the Blue Jays, and Toronto’s QuestCap have formed a team that includes Dr. Lawrence Steinman, a professor of neurology at Stanford University, and the data encryption company Yoti in the United Kingdom.

Their plan is to be able to process athletes and team staff through an “inner circle” — one based on temperature checks and serology tests — to ensure teams are COVID-19 free before playing their respective sports.

Copeland says teams from all four major professional sports in North America have approached QuestCap for more information about the company’s return-to-sports model and its exclusive North and South American rights to serology test kits from Korean manufacturer PCL.

“I’ve been approached in the last two weeks by upwards of 20 teams,” Copeland said. “They want to educate themselves about what can be done and what they can do. It’s been an incredible spirit of co-operation.”

Copeland says doctors, with the appropriate number of nurses and attending staff, should be able to process teams of 25 players in about half an hour at a cost of about $ 45 per player.

Steinman said players would report to testing centres at playing venues before being admitted to locker rooms, training facilities and playing surfaces. He said the transition from the “outside world” to the “inner circle” would consist of temperature checks and daily serology tests.

The test kits are based on finger-prick blood samples and determine the presence of IgM and IgG antibodies. They can tell whether the person is infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, while indicating if the person has begun producing antibodies that confirm a period of immunity.

Steinman said PCL data on the test kits claim they are 98.5 per cent accurate. The kits have been tested on more than 1,000 patients in three South Korean hospitals.

“These are the types of gating procedures you can have for sports teams or with, say, teachers getting back into classrooms,” Steinman said. “Nothing is foolproof. There is a margin for error, but our goal remains to catch (the virus) and to prevent it from spreading.”

The PCL test kits are certified for use in Europe and in some Asian countries. They are also certified in the U.S. under the emergency act, but have yet to be certified in Canada after being submitted for approval to the federal government April 10.

Copeland says QuestCap has already discussed its model with the governing body for the top soccer leagues in Colombia, which include 36 teams. Medical facilities and a Nevada hotel chain are also in varying discussions with QuestCap.

“The big question I had from the NHL (teams) is how fast can we get 100 people through the protocols,” Copeland said. “The results from the PCL test kits are in 15 minutes. We can do the test, it takes about a minute. Then (the athlete) goes into a social distancing area, has a cup of coffee and waits for the results. So, we can do 100 people, each in say 90 seconds or less, and then get the results, we could complete that in two hours or less. If it’s 30 players, we can get that done in, say, 35 minutes.”

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“If we get 25 players at once, as long as we have 25 places for social distancing and if we have 10 nurses, we could get everyone through in 25 minutes.”

Added Steinman: “We have all grown accustomed to airport screening after 9/11, we’ll all grow accustomed to going through a temperature check and more in the aftermath (of the COVID-19 pandemic), and possibly more invasive tests in certain institutions.”

Mark Zwolinski

TORONTO STAR