NFL Ramped Up Covid Response in Mid-Season After Spread

The National Football League ramped up its response to Covid-19 in mid-season with new guidelines for mask-wearing and practices after earlier protocols failed to prove strict enough.

The league intensified testing and preventive measures in October after observing a number of cases in people who’d had only brief exposure to others with the coronavirus, according to a study published in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. The report was written by the NFL, along with advisers and partners from numerous institutions, including the CDC.

Sports teams, along with businesses, schools and restaurants, are struggling to keep employees who work in close in proximity from falling ill as infectious new variants become dominant. The league used an effective approach that could become a model for others, according to the article in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Although the protocols implemented by the NFL were resource-intensive,” the authors concluded, the strategy is “applicable to other settings, including essential workplaces, long-term care facilities, and schools.”

Teams moved to the intensive protocol if a player or staff member with facility access developed Covid, or if the team played a game against an opposing player who received a positive test from the day of their game. From the beginning of October through Nov. 1, 29 clubs spent 431 days in the protocol.

Requirements of the protocol included virtual or outdoor meetings, wearing of masks or face shields during practices and in weight rooms, a 10-player, five-staff-member limit on weight-room occupancy and no cafeteria seating.

The 32-team NFL conducted 623,000 PCR tests of about 11,400 players and staff members from Aug. 9 through Nov. 21, and identified 329 cases of Covid-19. The league tracked duration of contacts by requiring personnel to wear proximity devices from Kinexon, according to the report, and moved to tighten its restrictions on contact after identifying infections that occurred after interactions of less than 15 minutes.

The league is preparing for the Super Bowl championship game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 7.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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