NFL and players agree to new COVID protocols amid flood of positive tests

Coronavirus

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wears a protective face covering due to the Covid-19 pandemic before the Las Vegas Raiders play against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 4, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — The National Football League and its Players Association have agreed to updated COVID-19 protocols after more than 100 NFL players and coaches tested positive for the virus this week.

The new protocols take effect Thursday and will remain in effect through the conclusion of Week 15 games, which is scheduled to be Monday. The NFL is continuing discussions with the Players Association to determine what protocol should look like after Monday.

MEETINGS

In-person meetings involving Tier 1 and Tier 2 players and coaches are prohibited, unless they are held outside or in the practice bubble. Those in Tier 1 are the players themselves, along with coaches and trainers. In Tier 2 are assistant coaches, football operations employees, general managers and others.

Everyone who attends the meetings must socially distance. All other meetings will take place virtually.

MASKS

All players and staff must wear masks when indoors at the club facility, including in the weight room, regardless of vaccination status.

Masks are not required if outdoors or during practices inside the practice bubble.

WEIGHT ROOMS

No more than 15 players may work out in a single weight room at one time, regardless of vaccination status.

MEALS

Staff and players will not be allowed to eat together, regardless of vaccination status. Meals served in the meal rooms must be grab-and-go style, or there must be enough room for individuals to space out and be at least 10 feet from one another while eating.

Clubs must limit access or stagger mealtimes to allow physical distancing.

TRAVEL

Staff and players will not be allowed to meet visitors at the team hotel. They will also not be allowed to go to dinner or leave the hotel after the game if they are playing an away game.

The rules apply regardless of vaccination status.

ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE CLUB FACILITY

Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 staff and players will be subject to the following restrictions on activity outside of the club facility through the conclusion of Week 15 games:

  • Public player and coaches’ appearances and/or charity events are prohibited.
  • Groups of more than three Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 Individuals, including players, are prohibited from gathering outside of the club facility or team travel, regardless of vaccination status. Tier 3 refers to operations staff, stadium services, in-house media personnel and others who don’t need direct access to Tier 1 individuals.

All Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff and players are banned from engaging in the following “High Risk COVID Conduct” outlined in the November 9, 2021 COVID Protocols:

  • Attending an indoor night club (unless the individual is wearing PPE and there are no more than 10 people in the club)
  • Going to an indoor bar (other than to pick up food, or unless the individual is wearing PPE and there are no more than 10 people in the bar (a “bar” does not include an establishment that offers food service and which an individual attends primarily for food service even if the establishment also includes a full-service bar)
  • House gatherings of more than fifteen (15) people without the player or Tiered staff member and all guests wearing masks or PPE or where social distancing for the more than 15 people is impossible
  • Attending an indoor music concert/entertainment event
  • Attending a professional sporting event (other than applicable NFL games or events, unless the player or Tiered staff member is seated in a separated seating section, such as a suite or owner’s box, is wearing PPE, and there are no more than 10 people in that separate seating section)
  • Attending an event that is prohibited by state and/or local regulation, executive order or law implemented due to COVID-19.


‘TESTING OUT’ OF QUARANTINE FOR FULLY VACCINATED PLAYERS, STAFF

The NFL said it also evaluated its testing data and determined it needed to be updated to get vaccinated and asymptomatic players back on the field as quickly as possible.

Under past protocols, a player would not be able to return to the field until they could produce two negative COVID tests, 24 hours apart.

The league is now focusing on the viral load, or “cycle threshold” (CT), to determine how contagious a player is. A value 35 or greater is deemed not contagious, according to Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer.

Under the new protocols, fully vaccinated players should be tested daily after a confirmed positive test, but can leave quarantine in these three scenarios:

  • Two PCR tests that come back negative or with a CT value of at least 35
  • One PCR test a day later that is either negative or with a CT value of at least 35 and a negative Mesa rapid test taken within 24 hours
  • Two negative Mesa tests which can be taken the day after the positive swab

In each of the scenarios outlined above, the NFL said a player’s club must activate him prior to the game day deadline.

Any individual who does not receive the required number of negative tests to “test out” prior to the expiration of his/her 10-day quarantine period will be eligible to return to the club facility and interact with players and Tiered Individuals consistent with the standard quarantine periods.

Any individual who receives a confirmed positive test and then “tests out” or returns to the club facility after the standard quarantine period will then be eligible for the 90-day testing holiday beginning with the date of the individual’s first positive test.

ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL MODIFICATIONS

The NFL also told clubs to be prepared for additional modifications to the Protocols, which will likely include a reduction in the Tier limits similar to the limitations that were imposed toward the end of the 2020 regular season and modifications to the Testing Protocol.

Until further notice, clubs must continue weekly testing for fully vaccinated individuals, daily testing for unvaccinated individuals, and any other testing as directed by the NFL Chief Medical Officer for clubs in the Enhanced Mitigation Protocol.

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