The NFL saw 36 player positive tests for COVID-19 on Monday. It was the single-highest single day of positive tests for the NFL since the pandemic began in 2020, by a good margin. And it wasn’t a one-off. They nearly matched that yesterday, with Adam Schefter reporting that over the past two days, there have been 75 positive tests for players.
NFL now has had 75 player positives for COVID the past two days, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 15, 2021
That includes outbreaks for teams like the Cleveland Browns and the Los Angeles Rams, with seven teams now being required to operate under intensive protocols, which includes mandatory masking for all, virtual meetings, and daily COVID-19 testing even for the fully vaccinated.
And that is where we have to go next; at least the last part. It’s obvious by now that a weekly testing cadence for vaccinated players is not sufficient. There are too many gaps in cadence that allow players who are positive for several days to spread the virus before finally being tested.
While the NFL has contended that the majority of positive cases are the product of community spread—on Monday, they put the number at 86 percent, though the Browns outbreak occurred yesterday—I have no doubt some of it is coming from within locker rooms.
One of the incentives that players were given to get vaccinated was the fact that they would not have to submit to daily testing. It was originally every other week, but it was cut down to every week. It’s not enough. I don’t know that it has to be testing every day, but it needs to be more than once a week.
Vaccines are critical in fighting COVID-19, but they are imperfect, and the Delta variant is more effective than the earlier variants in bypassing them. The Delta variant is the dominant strain around the US right now, as the Omicron variant makes landfall, which early indications suggest may be even more resistant to the vaccine, though also possibly less dangerous.
But from a practical, football, business perspective, teams want to do everything that they can to keep their players on the field and available to play. The Browns may have a large portion of their offense unavailable for a Saturday game this week because they had an outbreak. Because they didn’t have to be tested for a week, and the virus undoubtedly spread within, with multiple linemen and tight ends, for example, infected.
It’s time for the vaccinated players to suck it up and sacrifice their convenience of weekly testing for the sake of the greater good of the league. Nobody wants to watch games where a quarter of the starters are absent because of a spread of a virus in the locker room.
If these players were tested every day, it’s much more likely that the teams would be able to get isolation protocols in effect soon enough to prevent, or at least greatly reduce, spread from player to player. A lot of players won’t be happy about this—many no doubt only got vaccinated for this reason—but you know what? Oh well.