NFL's high volume of COVID-19 cases confirmed to be false positives after retesting

BioReference Laboratories, the NFL’s partner for COVID-19 testing, confirmed that the alarming influx of positive tests among league players and personnel on Saturday were false positives as suspected.

Those impacted — reportedly 77 in all — have all been retested and confirmed to be negative for COVID-19.

In a statement, BioReference executive chairman Jon R. Cohen said the company was quick to presume that the results were “most likely false positives caused by an isolated contamination during test preparation in the New Jersey laboratory.”

“Reagents, analyzers and staff were all ruled out as possible causes and subsequent testing has indicated that the issue has been resolved. All individuals impacted have been confirmed negative and informed,” Cohen said.

Cohen added that when the “elevated number” of positive tests was reported to the NFL, the league “immediately took necessary actions to ensure the safety of the players and personnel.”

The NFL said Sunday it was working with BioReference to investigate what happened. In the meantime, teams throughout the league exercised an abundance of caution to prevent the possible spread of the virus.

Only one BioReference testing location, its New Jersey lab, reported any irregularities.

“The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results,” the NFL said Sunday.

11 NFL teams affected by false positives

In all, 11 NFL teams were affected, according to ESPN, with the Minnesota Vikings (12 false positives), New York Jets (10) and Chicago Bears (9) hit the hardest. Players who were held out and subsequently found to be negative for COVID-19 can return to football activities on Monday.

The NFL has had an extremely low rate of positive tests as training camps around the country have progressed. As of Sunday, only three players remained on the league’s Reserve/COVID-19 list. Cincinnati Bengals receiver John Ross was the most recent player to be confirmed COVID-19 negative and activated from the list, permitting him to participate in team activities.

The shrinking number of positives is an excellent sign for the NFL as it inches closer to Week 1, but a similar testing incident happening in-season would be a nightmare scenario for the league. This ordeal could be the impetus for some adjusted testing protocols during the regular season.

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