NFL, players agree to test for COVID-19 daily for first 2 weeks of training camp

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The NFL and its players have reached agreement on the testing aspect of their COVID-19 safety protocol as training camps are expected to open within the next two weeks.League chief medical officer Dr Allen Sills said the agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association would require daily testing for COVID-19 during the first two weeks of training camp. After two weeks, if the positive test rate is less than 5%, the league will return to testing every other day. If the positive test rate is not less than 5%, they will continue with daily tests until it falls below that number.

If at any time during training camp the positivity rate increases to 5% or more, it would trigger a return to daily testing.

“This is a work in progress,” Sills said. “There is no finish line with health and safety, and I think these protocols are living and breathing documents, which means that they will change as we receive new information. They will undoubtedly change over time, which is what we usually see in medicine. ”

Upon entering team premises for the first time, players and team employees will be required to test negative twice before being licensed. Basically, you show up on day 1, take a test, go home, then show up on day 2, take a test, go home and if both are negative, you can go into the building and get to work.

“We recognize that as players, coaches and staff come in, they’re going to come from across the country and in some cases the world,” Sills said. “So we want to take a slow approach here. ”

Sills said the test rules – and the 5% threshold – would apply to all level 1 and level 2 employees across the league. A June 7 memo sent to teams by the league defines Level 1 employees as all players and necessary staff who must have direct access to players. He defined level 2 as “other essential personnel who may need to be in proximity to players and other level 1 individuals and who may need to access restricted areas”.

Sills also said the league expects test results to come back within 24 hours. The NFL has contracted with BioReference Laboratories to manage its testing and has said repeatedly over the past few months that it wants to remain responsible for not taking too large a share of the tests available in any of their markets.

“Any decision we make, whether it’s screening, testing, treatment or gambling, we want to make sure that we don’t have any negative impact on the public health situation,” Sills said. “This is absolutely true when you talk about tests. We have had ongoing and in-depth discussions with several parties on this issue. And we have had a long discussion with our test provider to make sure we don’t negatively impact their business. ”

The deal reflects a compromise between the players, who demanded daily testing as a return-to-work condition, and the owners, who had offered testing every other day.

The league and the union remained in negotiations Sunday night on other matters, including the number of preseason games, details of the acclimatization period players will have once they show up to camp and issues surrounding withdrawal procedures for players who are uncomfortable playing during the pandemic or have a medical issue that would make it too risky for them.

The NFL has already canceled two of its four pre-season weeks, but the players have asked that all pre-season games be canceled this year. The players also proposed an acclimatization period at training camp that would limit the first 21 days to only weight and conditioning work, the next 10 days to non-padded workouts and then work in contact for the last 14 days. NFLPA President JC Tretter said on a conference call Friday that the plan was the recommendation of jointly appointed medical experts, and the union is clearly annoyed that the league has not agreed to adopt it.

“The recommendations of this group fueled the discussions,” said Sills on Sunday. “The exact appearance of this outcome will be determined by many factors, including the overall timeline and the combined agreement between the two parties. If I understand correctly, this is still under discussion. But I think we have to do it. some things differently. ”

Another point of contention is the Infectious Disease Emergency Response (IDER) plans of individual teams. The NFLPA has reviewed some, but not all, of these plans, and sources say they are concerned about the level of detail in some of the plans, which cover issues such as how to handle a positive test and how to isolate someone who has symptoms of COVID-19. Sills said Sunday that he and the infectious disease experts in the league had reviewed the IDER plans for the 32 teams.

“I approved all of this and I’m very proud of the effort the clubs have put into these plans,” Sills said. They are incredibly detailed and you can tell our clubs have spent countless hours on these decisions. ”

Sills echoed the sentiments of NFLPA officials who spoke to members of the Pro Football Writers of America on Friday when he stressed that testing alone would not be enough to protect everyone from transmitting the virus. If the NFL and its players union have agreed on anything throughout this process, it is the message around the importance of players and team staff being as responsible as possible in their behaviors and interactions when they are outside the team facilities.

“Although everyone shares the risk in this environment, everyone will have to share the responsibility, both when it is on team premises and when they are not on team premises , to make decisions and model behaviors related to risk mitigation. “Sills said. “We won’t be able to test our way to safety. The way we conduct ourselves away from the facility, all of those things are going to be really important as we go through the season. ”

The Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs rookies are due to report on Monday, and the full squad presentation date for most teams is July 28.

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