NFL to enter intensive COVID-19 protocol

Football 50-yard-line (© Can Stock Photo / purple_dragon)

The National Football League is clamping down on its efforts to control the effects of COVID-19.

Due to a strong surge of coronavirus cases in the U.S., the NFL announced Wednesday afternoon that it will order all 32 of its teams, including the Detroit Lions, to begin “intensive protocol”, effective Saturday.

Intensive protocol, which was started by the league at the beginning of October, had only been implemented when a team reported a positive COVID-19 case or had been exposed to a team with confirmed cases. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, for example, had a false positive test during training camp and tested negative last week after being exposed to a positive patient.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the number of games coming up, particularly over American Thanksgiving, made the designation necessary.

“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,” said Goodell in a media release. “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.”

Goodell also noted that many teams have set their own standards.

“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,” said Goodell.

The league said teams that had undertaken intensive protocol helped eliminate the risk of widespread outbreaks, such as one involving the Tennessee Titans earlier this season. The league has been able to play all its scheduled games over the past five weeks.

As of Wednesday, 28 of the 32 teams had been connected to the virus one way or another.