NFL teams will have to undergo intensive protocols beginning Saturday to mitigate the risks of contracting COVID-19 amid an increase in cases across the United States.
Masks must be worn at all times in the team’s training facilities, including during practice and in the weight room.
All meetings must be held virtually or in large outdoor venues, approved by the league. Meals will be to go to avoid players and other employees congregating in cafeterias. Time in locker rooms will also be limited.
Teams that have operated under strict protocols have reduced close contact by nearly 50% since Week 5 of the regular season, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press and released to teams by Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday.
“These sustained reductions and subsequent health benefits make the implementation of the intensive and mandatory protocols appropriate throughout the league,” the commissioner’s memo reads.
So far, 28 teams have been on intensive protocols at some point and 16 have implemented them more than once.
“The upcoming festivities beginning with Thanksgiving next week will bring a new risk of exposure that we have to deal with,” wrote Goodell. “Because we have an advanced daily testing program, we know when the virus enters the facility, which underscores the importance of contact tracing and other steps to minimize the approach at the practice center.”
On Tuesday, the NFL reported there were 17 new confirmed positives from players and 35 from staff in tests conducted Nov. 8-14. This brought the league’s total cases to 95 players and 175 employees since Aug. 1, not counting positives this week.
“The biggest motivator I find when we talk to clubs about this is simply that if they are not complying with the mask protocols or if for some reason someone forgot or something like that, they are much more likely to identify themselves as high-level contacts. risk than in other situations, “said Jeff Miller, the league’s vice president of communications, affairs and public policy.
“So when this player or coach has to leave the team environment for five days because he had his mask down, it is a lesson learned at the facilities. So I don’t think we will see many of these problems recur ”.
The only teams that haven’t been through the intensive protocols have been the Jets, Buccaneers, Seahawks and Washington.
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