With two weeks to go before the first major championship of 2020, the PGA of America still is deciding how it will handle instances of a player in the field testing positive for COVID-19 despite being 10 days removed from the onset of symptoms.
The PGA Tour amended its policy on cases like that two weeks ago, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, which stipulate a person can go back to work if past 10 days from initially showing symptoms and at least 72 hours removed from having a fever.
Currently, the PGA of America policy for the Aug. 6-9 tournament at Harding Park in San Francisco is that a player who tests positive will not be permitted to compete.
“We are continuing to review this particular situation and are discussing it with both our medical advisors and the PGA Tour as well as listening to the most recent CDC guidelines,” the PGA of America said in a statement given to ESPN.
Two weeks ago, the PGA Tour announced a clarification to its health and safety plan that now allows players and caddies who have tested positive for the coronavirus to return to work after 10 days even if they continue to test positive — provided they meet certain qualifications. Dylan Frittelli and Harris English are two PGA Tour players who qualify under the tour’s policy and are eligible for the PGA Championship.
Called the “timed out” policy, it requires players who fit this description to be grouped together during tournament rounds or play alone. Frittelli and English are grouped together for the first two rounds of the 3M Championship this week in Minnesota along with Denny McCarthy, who until Saturday fit the same description before getting a negative test.
“In the beginning stage of the illness, the virus that is assumed to be [the] active virus that can cause infection can be contagious,” said Dr. Tom Hospel, the PGA Tour’s medical adviser. “As time passes and as symptoms resolve and the patient or individual doesn’t have any fever and 10 days have passed, at that point the thought and theory is that this virus, this particle that’s being detected in the (nasal) swab is no longer active or contagious or can potentially cause ongoing infection.
“What we have learned along the way is that in some instances, individuals can continue to test positive for weeks if not months beyond when their illness started, and the thought is that those individuals are no longer contagious, but you’re picking up a dead virus.”
According to the symptom-based model as outlined by the CDC, a player or caddie can return to competition if at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery — which is a resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
But those are PGA Tour regulations. The PGA of America runs the PGA Championship, and its policies are similar to those in place at regular tour events, with testing to take place for players upon arrival.
The PGA Championship was rescheduled after golf shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally scheduled for May, it is now in two weeks and will be the first of three major championships to be played in 2020, with the U.S. Open in September and the Masters in November. The Open was canceled.