As Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the National Football League, its commissioner has decided to intensify safety protocols.
In a memo obtained by CNBC, NFL boss Roger Goodell said all 32 teams will switch to the league’s “intensive protocol” starting Saturday. Under the guidelines, the NFL will reduce close contact between players and staff and mandate masks be worn at all times throughout practice sites.
“We reviewed data at last week’s League meeting that demonstrated the substantial reductions in close contacts achieved by clubs operating under the Intensive Protocols,” Goodell said in the memo.
He noted that under the NFL’s stricter protocols “have reduced close contacts by more than 50 percent. The protocols have been used by 28 teams at least once and by 16 teams multiple times.
“These sustained reductions and the resulting health and safety benefits make it appropriate to implement the Intensive Protocols on a mandatory, league-wide basis,” Goodell said.
On Tuesday, the NFL released its latest Covid-19 testing report, identifying 17 new cases. During the NFL’s testing period, the league said 95 players and 175 team staff have tested positive for Covid-19.
Speaking to reporters after a league meeting last week, Goodell reiterated the NFL’s plan to finish its season and hold Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay on Feb. 7. The NFL plans to have the game with 20% capacity.
The tightened protocols include:
- Holding all team meetings virtually “unless held outdoors or in a practice bubble with masks being worn by all while maintaining physical distancing and wearing Kinexon tracking devices.”
- If clubs want to hold in-person meetings, officials will need to submit a request to the NFL’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills and include the “reason for meeting, location, room square footage and capacity, seating-table diagram, and ventilation.”
- Teams will also switch meals to “grab and go only,” restrict seating in cafeteria areas, limit players (10) and five staff members in training rooms.
Here is Goodell’s memo:
Tomorrow night, the Cardinals and Seahawks will play the first game of Week 11 of the regular season.
Reaching this point with no games being missed is a testament to the work that each of you, and so many others at the 32 clubs, have done to ensure the safety and well-being of players, coaches, officials, and team staff.
At the same time, our goal has never changed – safely and responsibly to play a complete regular season, followed by a full postseason and the Super Bowl. To that end, we have regularly evolved our protocols as we have learned more throughout the season. Today, we are implementing further enhancements to our protocols to address current conditions, in particular the sharp growth in Covid-19 cases in our communities and the related increase in cases among our players and other club employees. The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now.
Because we have a highly sophisticated program of daily testing, we know when the virus enters our facilities, which underscores the importance of contact tracing and other steps to minimize close contacts within a facility. Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimizing high-risk close contacts; on multiple occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short time. We have also seen many instances in which effective action by clubs to minimize these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club, and avoided players or coaches being ruled out of practice or games. Clubs have adopted a wide range of innovative practices to work effectively within the protocols, which has both reduced risk of infection and allowed for a season filled with exciting, competitive games.
We reviewed data at last week’s League meeting that demonstrated the substantial reductions in close contacts achieved by clubs operating under the Intensive Protocols.
As shown in the attached table, clubs operating under the Intensive Protocols have reduced close contacts by more than 50 percent since the fifth week of the regular season. These sustained reductions and the resulting health and safety benefits make it appropriate to implement the Intensive Protocols on a mandatory, league-wide basis. Accordingly, beginning Saturday, November 21, all clubs will conduct their operations under the Intensive Protocols.
To date, 28 clubs have utilized the Intensive Protocols at least once and 16 clubs have done so multiple times. And, several clubs have opted to adopt portions of the Intensive Protocols for the rest of the season. The full Intensive Protocols accompany this memo. Clubs should use the next several days to prepare for a shift to the Intensive Protocols.
As we continue through the season, it will likely be necessary to take further steps to address broader conditions. In conjunction with our medical advisors and the NFLPA, we will continue to incorporate our experience and implement enhancements to the protocols and communicate with each of you on a regular basis.
It has been said many times that our 2020 season cannot be “normal” because nothing about this year is normal. Flexibility and adaptability have been critical to our success to date and we must continue with that approach. I am convinced that if we remain focused and committed to adhering to our protocols, and to adjusting them as experience requires, we can play a full 2020 season that is not simply normal, but extraordinary. Thank you for your continued cooperation and support.
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