When players report for training camp, they’ll initially receive a COVID-19 test. The NFL is expecting a rash of positive results.
“We absolutely expect that, and I think that’s just reflective of the fact that this disease remains endemic in our society,” NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills told Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.
The goal will be catching those who test positive before they can enter the team facility, the locker room, the practice field, or a game.
“You don’t want anyone who is infected to come into that team environment,” Dr. Sills told Volin. “That is an absolutely crucial screening for us to try to start off with a very healthy environment, and also make sure we can give the appropriate treatment and care for those individuals who may be affected and not be aware. But I think we all anticipate that there will be those cases, and we’ve been very clear of that throughout.”
The NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed that players who test positive but who are asymptomatic will be quarantined for at least five days and must generate two negative tests before returning. Symptomatic players must be quarantined for 10 days with two negative tests. For players who actually become ill, they may be off the field even longer than that after being cleared, given the potential impact of exercise on their recovery.
So how many will be positive from the get go? With other sports generating a positive test rate in the range of 2-5 percent as players report for duty, and with (as Volin estimates) roughly 4,500 NFL players, coaches, and staff, that’s a range of 90 to 225 positives. The challenge will be to identify all of them and to keep them away from others, to prevent the kind of outbreak that would cause the Jenga tower to collapse upon removal of its first brick.