The NFL announced yesterday evening that all team facility would be closed on Monday and Tuesday, in an effort to attempt to curb potential Covid-19 spread that may result from players, coaches, and staff gathering with their families on Thanksgiving. That would be five days after Thursday, which is in line with the timeline that the league has established for high-risk close contacts who do not test positive.
The NFL informed clubs all in-person team activities will be prohibited this coming Monday and Tuesday — a mitigation measure in light of rising COVID-19 positivity rates across the country and many players and staff having guests for Thanksgiving. The ban doesn’t include games. pic.twitter.com/ObytXZz5Sg
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 28, 2020
This might raise some eyebrows at first, considering the fact that the league just moved the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the Baltimore Ravens to Tuesday; the good news is that teams who are scheduled to play on Monday and Tuesday are exempt from these restrictions, so Pittsburgh will be permitted to practice during this time.
I’m not sure how many teams currently have players on their Reserve/Covid-19 Lists, but I know it would be easier to count the teams who don’t at this point. I’m not sure that there are any teams remaining who have not placed a single player on the reserve list since the start of the season. There were only about seven remaining by the time the Steelers fell with tight end Vance McDonald’s illness.
The league’s decision comes amid a continuing Covid-19 surge around the countries, in which we are seeing not simply cases, but also deaths, and arguably most concerning, hospitalizations mount. Needless to say, the NFL does not want to add to the burden of the healthcare system right now.
I stress the hospitalizations because many areas of the country are reaching critical stages in which ICUs are becoming overpopulated. To make matters worse, there isn’t simply a space shortage—and a potential PPE shortage on the horizon—there is a medical professional shortage that is very real and very concerning, as we once again see nurses coming out of retirement to try to help.
Medical experts fear that family gatherings during Thanksgiving will lead to a spike within a spike, a time during which many people who have otherwise been consistently being responsible choose to gather with loved ones that they have not seen in some time. inevitably, some will be transmitting the virus to others, unbeknownst to themselves, as asymptomatic or presymptomatic cases.
This is why the league wants facilities closed during this time period, to give themselves something of a running start in getting days’ worth of testing well into the incubation period of the virus in the hopes that any cases of concern are detected early.
The league is also asking individuals to be honest about their holiday plans and whether or not they have gathered with others, to inform their team’s Infection Control Officer in this event, for consideration of possible additional point-of-care testing when the facilities reopen on Wednesday.
Of course, these players will be playing games on Sunday and Monday and Tuesday and potentially shedding the virus in the meantime. But there’s only so much you can do. Everybody knew going in that this is about risk mitigation, not elimination.