In case you haven’t been keeping up, COVID-19 is not over yet. In fact, it’s on its second revival tour already, now fronted by the surging Omicron variant, which will become more and more prominent on our shores, as it is becoming in the UK, over the next several weeks.
In the meantime, the Delta variant remains king, and it remains a problem for everybody. Not even the NFL can escape it, and it is working to address it with a new memo that went out to teams yesterday following a concerning record day of testing, during which 37 players tested positive for COVID-19, by far the largest single-day total the league has ever had since the pandemic began. (The 37th player tested positive after the 4 p.m. transaction deadline for the business day.)
It’s more than the entire months of September or October, and double the previous in-season record of 18. The past three Mondays each set season highs.
All 36 tested positive. pic.twitter.com/BgbytC601t
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 14, 2021
The Pittsburgh Steelers have not had any new positive tests yet, though we may hear something today, as it is believed that their testing day for vaccinated players is Monday. They have, however, had numerous personnel miss time due to COVID-19, most notably quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. They just activated lineman Joe Haeg from the Reserve/COVID-19 List yesterday.
Among the players who tested positive around the league yesterday were Cedrick Wilson, Josh Gordon, Jalen Ramsey, Tyler Higbee, Phillip Lindsay, Ryan Connelly, Kadarius Toney, and Jonathan Allen. The Steelers currently have zero players from the 53-man roster on their Reserve/COVID-19 List, but they just added defensive back Linden Stephens to the Practice Squad/COVID-19 List yesterday.
In response to the evolving situation, the NFL is mandating that all Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff—not players—not only be vaccinated, which was already the case, but they also to get a booster shot, as studies continue to show that vaccine effectiveness wanes over time. Tier 1 staff includes the coaching staff.
Now official. NFL requiring booster shots of all Tier 1 and 2 staff by Dec. 27. Memo has gone out to teams. pic.twitter.com/lvRjCNADRQ
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) December 14, 2021
This only applies if the individual is eligible to receive a booster shot, of course. If they are eligible, however, then they must be in compliance with the new mandate by December 27. It also does not apply if individuals show a high level of antibodies.
Clubs can have the shots administered directly on-site, and indeed team facilities all around the NFL have served as vaccination sites over the course of the past year, so the issue will certainly not be about access. Not everybody may be comfortable getting a booster shot, however, though I suspect there will be a very high degree of compliance.
The only thing that would happen, by the way, would be that they would lose their tier status. In the case of coaches, they would not be able to work directly with their players face to face, and would have to do so virtually.