As COVID-19 infection rates are rising rapidly across the country, the NFL has announced that as of Saturday, all 32 teams will be working on the league’s intensive protocol for the rest of the season.
This requires, among other restrictions, that all players and coaches have a negative test from the previous day’s tests before entering the facility, in addition to regular daily PCR testing, with all meetings being held in practice unless they can be held. outdoors or indoors with a pre-approved plan and for face masks that are worn at all times in the facility, including on the training field by all staff. All meals should be served in a take-and-go style to prevent people from gathering in the dining rooms. The use of the locker room is highly recommended on non-game days.
The protocol also prohibits the gathering of teams or players away from the facility, a particularly important ban on Thanksgiving next week.
“The upcoming holidays, starting with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new exposure risks that we need to address now,”
Until now, the intensive protocol, which was introduced on October 1, has been reserved for teams that have tested positive or have been exposed to a test team. Twenty-eight teams have participated in the intensive protocol at some point this season and have very voluntarily adapted some of the restrictions. Since the introduction of the intensive protocol and subsequent mandate calling for a five-day period of isolation for identified as “high-risk close contacts” of a player or coach who proved positive, the NFL has been able to eliminate widespread outbreaks as one affected earlier this season by “Tennessee Titans”, which caused a significant disruption of the schedule. The NFL has played all scheduled games in the last five weeks.
According to the NFL, clubs that participated in the Intensive Protocol had more than a 50 percent reduction in overall close contact with other people at the facility compared to teams that were not in the Intensive Protocol. This reduces the risk of spreading the virus, even if the team members are positive. The NFL also said there were more than 20 cases of positive tests while teams were in intensive protocols that did not have any close high-risk contacts. This, the league said, shows that intensive protocol is effective in bringing teams to all parts of the facility – for example, there are limits on the number of people who can be in the weight room at a time – a key component to limiting outbreaks. No club involved in the intensive protocol since its introduction in early October has seen the virus spread.
But the NFL is undoubtedly affected by the rapidly growing number of cases in the country. Earlier this week, Dr. Alan Sils, NFL’s chief medical officer, said genome testing in any positive case showed that the virus had not spread to teams since intensive and high-risk close contact protocols were introduced. Rather, the increase in the number of positive cases in teams in recent weeks comes from the spread of the community outside the team – players and coaches catch the virus from someone they interact with outside the team, reflecting difficulties in playing without a bubble during the country’s inability to contains the virus. The Goodell note also said that further changes to the protocol are likely to be needed as the season continues.