As the NFL limps to the finish line under the cloud of a new COVID variant that is ripping through many facilities, NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills contends that players, coaches, and staff without symptoms aren’t responsible for spreading Omicron in the building.
“We’ve really not seen this phenomenon that people have discussed, which is asymptomatic people in the facility spreading virus to others,” Sills told Judy Battista of NFL Media. “As we’ve gone back and looked throughout the entire season, what we’ve seen consistently is when people have symptoms, that’s when they seem to be contagious to others.”
Dr. Sills explained that “it’s all about symptom recognition and prompt testing.” He also suggested that, without weekly testing, the NFL possibly is avoiding situations in which someone who tests negative on a Monday and develops symptoms later in the week assumes it isn’t COVID. Instead, people are now getting tested when they develop symptoms.
Some in league circles reject these claims. While plenty of players, coaches, and staff members seem to be disclosing their symptoms, plenty surely aren’t. Players want to play. If they can conceal their symptoms, many will. Indeed, before they even face the dilemma of whether to volunteer for a test, folks who are committed to showing up and getting the job done will have to pierce through the potentially thick layer of denier.
One source with knowledge of the dynamics of the application of the protocols expressed a belief that the idea that asymptomatic players aren’t spreading the virus is flat-out incorrect. That those who are feeling fine are catching it and spreading it.
Indeed, if vaccinated players who have the virus but don’t have symptoms weren’t a problem, why did the protocols implode last week? It was a rash of asymptomatic positive cases in vaccinated players. They were catching it. They surely were spreading it.
They still are. And even as the league proceeds with new protocols aimed at allowing the NFL to get through the season despite the Omicron surge, the positives continue to pile up. After the postponement of three games in Week 15, it’s hard to imagine the rest of the season unfolding without incident.
Hopefully, it will.