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Samaritan Physicians Contribute to COVID-19 Research

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There’s a local tie and surprising source behind recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to shorten the quarantine period for people exposed to COVID-19. 

Two physicians from Samaritan Health Services helped to establish protocols and guide data collection of COVID-19 test results of student-athletes at Oregon State University and other Pac-12 Conference schools in a quarantine study. The findings, combined with those from other NCAA conferences, show there is limited risk for transmission after 10 days following exposure.

The study also concluded that people are more likely to comply with shorter quarantine periods. Based on this study and other research, the CDC in December revised its quarantine recommendations, shortening the period to 10 days.

The study not only helps to safely return student-athletes to practice and competition, but also allows people to return to work and society in a safe and timely manner, said Douglas Aukerman, MD, a sports medicine physician at Samaritan Athletic Medicine Center, and Oregon State’s senior associate athletic director for sports medicine.

“Decreasing the quarantine length will reduce the burden on communities,” Dr. Aukerman said. “This research shows how we can do it safely."

Dr. Aukerman is one of the national leaders in college athletics responding to COVID-19. He is chair of the panel that oversees the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Initiative, including the conference’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee. Last summer, he invited experts in infectious disease and public health to participate in developing guidelines, including Samaritan’s Adam Brady, MD, infectious disease specialist and chair of the Samaritan coronavirus task force.

“The pandemic has presented unique opportunities for collegiate athletics to help provide information and data for general health guidance,” said Dr. Aukerman.

Given the Pac-12’s commitment to contact tracing, testing and quarantining of student-athletes, health experts on the conference’s task force recognized an opportunity to share testing data with the CDC. These efforts highlight the power of partnering together to improve public health measures.

“All of this testing data added to the growing body of knowledge of how this virus is transmitted,” Dr. Brady said. “It is helping to inform public health decisions."

Dr. Brady, who earned his undergraduate degree at Oregon State, said this is the first time in his career that his work has brought him into the sports realm.

“It has been a very rewarding experience to contribute infectious disease expertise to the world of college athletics,” Dr. Brady said.

It is exciting for Samaritan clinicians to be involved in research with such immediate and broad implications, he added.

Participation by Oregon State Athletics and Samaritan physicians also reinforces what is known about the transmission of COVID-19.

“Studies like this show there is minimal risk of transmission after a 10-day quarantine,” Dr. Brady said.

Dr. Brady and Dr. Aukerman continue to represent Oregon State on the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee. Data collection is ongoing, with additional findings forthcoming.

“Dr. Aukerman and Dr. Brady are an asset to our student-athletes, coaches, the community and the Pac-12 Conference,” said Scott Barnes, vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics at Oregon State. “Their leadership is helping to keep people safe from the coronavirus."