NFL requires all 32 teams to enter intensive COVID-19 protocol for remainder of 2020 season


CHINA – 2020/03/24: In this photo illustration the American football league The National Football League (NFL) logo seen displayed on a smartphone with a computer model of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the background. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) – As the NFL proceeds deeper into the second half of the 2020 season, the league has issued a COVID-19 mandate to all 32 teams meant to reduce potential transmissions of the virus amid a surge in COVID cases across the country. As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all clubs Wednesday requiring every team to enter intensive COVID-19 protocol for the remainder of the year, starting Saturday.

Intensive protocol, which the NFL introduced in October, was initially reserved for teams that either had positive COVID-19 tests or were exposed to a team with positive tests, as reported. Among its requirements: All coaches and players must test negative for COVID-19 prior to entering team facilities; all meetings must be held virtually, outdoors or within an approved indoor space; face masks or mouth shields must be worn at all times in the facility and at practice, and no team or player gatherings are permitted outside of team facilities.

“The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now,” Goodell wrote in Wednesday’s league memo. “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.”

Twenty-eight of the NFL’s 32 teams have already used intensive protocol at some point this season, with 16 doing so on multiple occasions. By Saturday, all 32 are expected to make the indefinite transition.

“As we continue through the season,” Goodell added, “it will likely be necessary to take further steps to address broader conditions … Flexibility and adaptability have been critical to our success to date and we must continue with that approach. I am convinced that if we remain focused and committed to adhering to our protocols, and to adjusting them as experience requires, we can play a full 2020 season that is not simply normal, but extraordinary.”

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