The NFL extended daily coronavirus testing for players and staff until further notice even though the positive test rate from the first two weeks of camp has been less than 1 percent.
Under the original agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association, players and staff needed three negative tests in a four-day period before they could report to the facility and then daily testing for the next two weeks.
If the positive rate from that first stretch of daily testing was below 5 percent, the plan had been to shift to testing every other day.
But the league and the union decided Wednesday to extend that period as they use more rapid onsite testing and as contact increases when padded practices start around the league next week.
“I think the bottom line is we’re continuing to learn a great deal from our testing results,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer. “I think that given the protocol changes that we recently made, as well as the use of this additional point of care technology and the recognition that we’re about to go into more of team-based activity during training camp, that we and the Players Association together felt it was prudent to extend the daily testing.”
Sills reported that there were 53 new positives out of 2,840 tests of players upon arrival, which works out to 1.9%. The rate of new positives for all staff upon arrival was at 1.7%
Since then, the league has conducted 109,075 tests through Tuesday with 0.46% of all tests coming up as positive and 0.81% of players testing positive.
“I think we were pleasantly surprised at how few positive tests we had,” Sills said of the initial results. “I think since that time, that positivity rate that I gave you reflects the fact that our teams have done, and our players, staff and coaches have done, a terrific job of staying uninfected.”
Sills said some of those positives tests could be false positives or reflect people who previously had coronavirus and still test positive for it.
While some players have been on the reserve/COVID-19 list for more than two weeks, Sills said he has no reports of anyone having any player having serious complications.
Sills said the league is monitoring any heart problems for players who test positive. There have been reports of several college football players contracting myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, after getting coronavirus. The protocols the NFL has with the union already require heart tests for players who have tested positive before they are allowed to return.
“I think they’re important and ongoing conversations when players have tested positive about what those screening tests mean and what’s the best way to rule out any of those complications,” Sills said.
“So it is something we’ll continue to monitor. I think one of the opportunities that we will have will be to contribute our data as we’ve done all these evaluations and look at that group as a whole and see what we’ve learned and what the outcomes have showed us, because that’s obviously an important issue right now for all of the sports medicine world.”
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