Citing rising COVID-19 numbers in the United States at large, the NFL has instructed teams to intensify protocols in hopes of mitigating the risk of spread of the virus as holiday gatherings take place beginning with Thanksgiving next week.
In a memo issued to all 32 teams, the NFL said, “This upward trend, coupled with the onset of colder weather driving individuals indoors, has resulted in an increased risk of infection among players and staff. Our experts and data confirm that getting vaccinated remains our strongest defense against contracting and transmission of the virus within club facilities.
“In light of this uptick in positive tests throughout the country and based on consultation with our experts and collective experience, we are making the following changes to the Protocols and are sharing additional best practices.”
The NFL “strongly encouraged” that teams provide drive-through testing for family members and friends visiting players and staff members for Thanksgiving. The testing is to take place before those family members and friends interact with the players and/or staff members.
The NFL also is making it a requirement that all players and Tier 1 and 2 staff members – regardless of vaccination status – submit to COVID-19 testing on Monday, Nov. 29 and Wednesday, Dec. 1. Normally, vaccinated individuals only have to be tested for COVID-19 every 14 days.
Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, said the decision was motivated in part by last Thanksgiving's spike in COVID cases both across the United States and throughout the league itself. The NFL also was concerned about the heightened possibility of exposure stemming from travel and more family contact.
"Just like last year, we thought about that, we prepared for that," Sills said in a news conference Wednesday. We took some additional steps last year to try to mitigate the additional risk."
The league reminded teams of the need for vigilance in enforcing protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players, and to submit video surveillance of team meetings and weight room activities to the league.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL COVID-19 protocols to intensify around Thanksgiving