The NFL may not be operating in a formal bubble, even if a couple of individual teams have attempted to simulate something to that effect for their own usage during training camp, but the results of their Covid-19 policies so far have been pretty similar.
The NHL and the NBA, now both in their postseason play without incident, have been praised for the manner in which they were able to restart their seasons and to play ball without generating the spread of the coronavirus within their system. It succeeded so well that some began to feel it is the only model that would work successfully.
It is crucial to acknowledge that there is still a long way to go—the NFL has not even begun to play games yet, after all, let alone having teams travel, which leagues playing in a bubble don’t have to worry about—but their recent test results have been very nearly immaculate.
According to the league’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Allen Sills, there hasn’t been a single positive test generated among 23,260 administered for players between the period of August 12 to August 20. Things haven’t been flawless, though. Of the 35,137 test administered to other personnel during that same time period, there have been six positives (which could include multiple positives for a single individual), strengthening the importance of adherence to guidelines for all participants, not just players.
Test results for August 12 – August 20:
•58,397 tests administered to 8,573 players and personnel.
•23,260 tests administered to players; 35,137 tests administered to personnel.
•Zero positive tests among players and six new confirmed positives among other personnel.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 24, 2020
Still, the zero positives for players is remarkable and extremely encouraging. There are only a few players remaining on teams’ reserve/Covid-19 lists as we speak, and as a reminder, a player doesn’t have to affirmatively test positive to be put on the list. For example, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross had been placed on the list after leaving the team to care for his young son who had tested positive. But he has already returned and is back on the field, having never tested positive himself.
This very positive news comes after the league had a scare when a laboratory that processes their tests (among other facilities around the country) read back 77 false positives over the weekend that shut down or limited the practices of a number of NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. Those same samples were since retested and returned negative, and of course the personnel that registered the false positive have also tested negative on subsequent tests with new samples.
What happens when teams are actually traveling and playing in games, however? That will be the true test to measure whether or not the league’s strategy will work in the end. The MLB has had positive tests on three different teams connected to three entirely different incidents that have delayed games since their season began, most recently with two members of the New York Mets organization testing positive.