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Latest COVID-19 Protocols Increase Testing Frequency For Vaccinated Players, Lift Some Mask Requirements For Unvaccinated

Playing an NFL season amid a pandemic was supposed to be a unique experience, but unfortunately, it isn’t, although there are differences between the manner in which the 2020 season was conducted and how the 2021 season will go, with a year’s worth of knowledge and experience, and a vaccine for COVID-19, being the variables.

With the immense amount that there was still yet to learn, the league’s COVID-19 protocols changed on nearly a weekly basis last season. They’re going to continue to change over the course of the 2021 season, as well, and a league memo today revealed some of the latest changes, which make the protocols somewhat more equitable.

The biggest change has been to change the testing cadence for vaccinated players, reducing it from every other week to now every week. Additionally, vaccinated players may volunteer for a second test during the week, and those who live with vulnerable individuals in their households may submit to daily testing.

Unvaccinated players must test for COVID-19 daily, as all players did last year, and they must wait outside of the facility until they test their results; vaccinated players do not have to wait. The NFLPA has pushed for daily testing for all players, vaccinated and unvaccinated; it’s not impossible we eventually see this implemented at some point in the season.

For unvaccinated players, the requirement that they wear masks during outdoor practices and walkthroughs has been lifted, though they still must wear masks while indoors. Additionally, while vaccinated individuals will still not be designated as high-risk close contacts who must quarantine, they may be subject to wearing masks and daily testing if they do become a close contact of a positive case.

Fully vaccinated members of the medical and training staff will now be required to wear masks while in the course of doing their jobs interacting with the players. This basically applies to all of them, since non-players must be vaccinated to interact with the players face-to-face.

This is just the latest round of modifications to the 2021 NFL COVID-19 Protocols, which has already been altered a couple of times. We will inevitably see it go through at least a couple more iterations before the season is through, as, again, we accumulate more data on both the Delta variant and the impact of the vaccines within the NFL team construct.

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