The NFL has announced that beginning on Saturday, all 32 teams will operate under the league’s intensive COVID-19 protocols for the rest of the season as cases surge throughout the country. In addition to the addition to regular daily PCR testing, all players and coaches must present a negative test from the previous day prior to entering the facility. Face masks must be worn by all personnel at all times, including the practice field. Any meetings not held outdoors or with a pre-approved plan must be held virtually. All meals are grab and go and locker room use is highly discouraged with the exception of game day.
As the holidays approach, the protocol also prohibits team or player gatherings away from the facility as well. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed what he referred to as “new risks of exposure” in the memo sent to teams on Wednesday.
“The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now,” Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo to teams Wednesday, obtained by NFL Media. “Because we have a highly sophisticated program of daily testing, we know when the virus enters our facilities, which underscores the importance of contact tracing and other steps to minimize close contacts within a facility. Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimizing high-risk close contacts; on multiple occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short time. We have also seen many instances in which effective action by clubs to minimize these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club, and avoided players or coaches being ruled out of practice or games.”
Prior to Wednesday’s memo, only teams that had positive tests or had been in contact with teams with positive tests were placed under the intensive protocol. According to the NFL, the teams that were in the protocol had more than a 50% reduction in overall close contacts with others at the facility.