NFL Testing Protocols Become More Clear As Training Camp Begins
NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills confirmed that players, coaches and designated staff who interact with players will "undergo COVID-19 testing daily throughout the first two weeks of training camp," according to Jori Epstein of USA TODAY. After two weeks, testing frequency guidelines will "depend on the positivity rate." Should the test positivity rate "drop below 5%, testing will be reduced to every other day." But if the positivity rate "climbs back to or surpasses 5%, daily testing will resume." Testing is among "many protocols teams will implement for risk mitigation." Teams also will "require daily temperature screening, symptom monitoring, social distancing and masks." The league will "use an Apple Watch-like proximity tracking device to identify which players, coaches and staff might have come into contact with someone who tested positive." Sills said that the league "confirmed with its test supplier, BioReference Laboratories, that the testing protocol will not impact the availability or expediency of public testing" (USA TODAY, 7/21).
TEST CASES: In Buffalo, Mark Gaughan reports before any players can enter the team facility, they "must be tested on two occasions, separated by 72 hours." In between those two tests, the players "must self-quarantine at their home or hotel" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/21). In Minneapolis, Andrew Krammer reports a positive test will "result in quarantining in a 'COVID room,' where the severity of the case can be determined." Vikings athletic trainer Eric Sugarman said that the team also has a "care package that will provide the patient with face coverings, a cleaning towel, skin cleaner, a thermometer, gloves, an oxygen monitor, educational resources and a meal plan" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/21). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton calls it a "distinctly NFL approach to a problem the league has become very familiar with: health and safety." The league is "pouring an immense amount of resources to try to solve an issue that may not have a workable solution." A source said that the testing alone -- "hundreds of thousands of tests, over the course of the potential season -- is expected to cost" around $75M. Beaton notes that figure "doesn’t include significant costs associated with contact tracing and other measures" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/21). NBCSN's Chris Simms said, "In a realistic world, NFL football, to think that you were only going to test two or three times a week, something like that, I just don't know how that works" (“PFT,” NBCSN, 7/21).
PEACE OF MIND: ESPN's Dianna Russini said of daily testing for players, "It wasn't even about them. It was about their families. They felt if they were able to test negative consistently, they would feel more comfortable with going home, being around their children, wives or some of their parents who are elderly who live with them. From a mental standpoint ... they feel relieved that this is something that the league moved forward on, and everyone was able to agree on it" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/20). Rams OT Andrew Whitworth said daily testing is "what kind of gives you some peace and some calm to guys to have a little less anxiety" (“Today,” NBC, 7/21).