A lab used by the NFL for COVID-19 testing of players, coaches and other staff says that 77 false positives were returned over the weekend because of a contamination.
“On August 22, BioReference Laboratories reported an elevated number of positive COVID-19 PCR test results for NFL players and personnel at multiple clubs,” the lab’s statement said. “The NFL immediately took necessary actions to ensure the safety of the players and personnel. Our investigation indicated that these were most likely false positive results, caused by an isolated contamination during test preparation in the New Jersey laboratory. Reagents, analyzers and staff were all ruled out as possible causes and subsequent testing has indicated that the issue has been resolved. All individuals impacted have been confirmed negative and informed.”
This weekend, the NFL was able to recognize quickly that the results were false positives and respond accordingly. But questions will be raised about what would happen if another contamination happens during the season. Could games be postponed or canceled over what turn out to be false positive tests? Or what if a slew of positive tests is presumed to be another contamination, and then it turns out that the positives were identifying an actual outbreak?
These are issues the NFL needs to be ready for. But dozens of false positives are certainly a better problem to have than dozens of actual positives.