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Big Ten Announces Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases

Committee helped form conference's response to coronavirus pandemic.
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Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren alluded to a committee of public health experts from around the conference when announcing the cancellation of the league's men's basketball tournament in March.

On Monday, the conference officially announced the formation of a task force for emerging infectious diseases.

The tournament in Indianapolis was canceled on March 12 as concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus grew. By the end of the day, the NCAA had canceled all of its remaining winter and spring championships, and the Big Ten had canceled all sports through the rest of the academic year.

The task force will serve to advise the conference based on information received from local, state and federal health departments, as well as the NCAA. There is one representative from each Big Ten university.

The task force will be advising the conference with "critical guidance around return-to-campus decisions at the appropriate time," according to a statement released by the conference.

“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,” Warren said in the statement. “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.”

The chairman of the task force is Dr. Chris Kratochvil, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research and Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), as well as the Executive Director of the Global Center for Health Security at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine.

The UNMC played a role in the treatment of the Ebola virus in 2014. It also is the home to the National Quarantine Center, the nation’s only federal quarantine unit, and is the location of the National Biocontainment Training Center.

“The Task Force leverages extraordinary expertise from across the Big Ten, tackling COVID-19 related issues important to student-athletes and athletic programs,” said Dr. Kratochvil. “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.”

Dr. Edith Parker, the Dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, is the Hawkeyes' representative on the committee.