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NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills says the league should be able to get through the playoffs and Super Bowl without COVID-19 causing significant problems.
Sills told the Los Angeles Times that he expects the league to be able to complete its schedule with the Super Bowl in Los Angeles on February 13.
“I remain guardedly optimistic,” Sills said. “I believe that we have a solid plan in place and we’ve shown that we can adapt and adjust as the data leads us. But we’ve also said that we’re always going to respond to the data and what it’s showing us, and we’re going to work with public health authorities and make sure that we’re respecting their directives and also supporting the messaging that needs to go out. That’s the essence of what our entire pandemic response has been: How can we all pursue things that we love and enjoy, and yet stay safe at the same time? That’s been our mission.”
This week only nine NFL players tested positive for COVID-19, after more than 100 tested positive each of the three previous weeks. Sills noted that there’s now likely enhanced immunity around the NFL because so many players have recent infections, and that 94 percent of NFL players are vaccinated. Sills said the data in the NFL is consistent with other places where the Omicron variant has spread: The variant hits like a tidal wave but then quickly recedes.
Another important aspect of all this is that in the NFL, fully vaccinated players are not tested regularly, and neither are players who have tested positive in the last 90 days. Virtually every NFL player is either fully vaccinated or has tested positive within the last 90 days, so few NFL players will be tested unless they come forward and say they’re feeling symptoms. And realistically, how many players are going to do that in the playoffs?
The answer is very few. And so it’s highly likely that there will be very few players testing positive between now and the Super Bowl.