As the NFL is preparing for training camps to start — most teams are scheduled to report on July 28, including the New England Patriots — one of the biggest questions relates to one of the defining stories of this year: How will the league handle positive Coronavirus tests, especially considering that numbers continue to rise in 34 states across the union and have hit record highs in places like California, Texas, Florida and Arizona that are all home to pro football organizations.
In order to be prepared for the realistic possibility of players, coaches and other team personnel being exposed to the virus either by contracting it themselves or being in contact with somebody who tested positively, the league sent out its protocols for such cases for training camp and preseason. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the following chart is part of it and explains how the NFL plans to tackle this scenario should it arise:
There is a lot to digest in this chart, but the biggest point is how long players or other personnel will have to remain quarantined in case they test positive for Covid-19 at one point:
Positive test, no symptoms: If a test is positive but no symptoms have been developed, a return is prohibited until 10 days have passed since the first positive test or five days have passed since that first test if two consecutive tests separated by 24 hours turn out negative. Furthermore, club and NFL physicians will have to give the green light while local guidelines and requirements also need to be fulfilled.
Positive test plus symptoms: If a test comes back positive and the tested individuals has developed Coronavirus symptoms — most commonly fever, a dry cough and tiredness — he will not be allowed to return until at least 10 days have passed since those symptoms first appeared and at least 72 hours since they last did. A return furthermore will have to be approved by club and NFL physicians while local guidelines and requirements also need to be fulfilled.
As can be seen in the graphic above, the league also differentiates based on levels of exposure.
If a person has had close contact exposure to a symptomatic or otherwise positively tested individual, a test will be executed as soon as possible while he or she will have to remain isolated until all results are available. If the exposure was classified as low or medium risk, meanwhile, the standard testing procedures — the NFL’s current plan is to test players up to three times a week — will remain in place while symptoms will be closely monitored.
While finalizing those protocols is a big step towards opening training camp later this month, the NFL and the NFL Players Association still have some big matters to discuss — from actual report dates to the length of the preseason.