Here’s what we know so far, with the proper context. We will continue to update as the news develops.
Calendar of return to establishments
Could the games be postponed?
So it started with the Titans?
Yes. On Saturday, Titans linebacker coach Shane Bowen returned a confirmed positive test. The Titans received the results before leaving Nashville for Minneapolis and Bowen was held back from making the trip.
Were the other eight employees of the Titans infected with Bowen?
We do not know. What we do know is that the entire touring band of the Titans were tested on Saturday, as they usually would be. The Titans had these results Sunday morning. All of them were negative, meaning every coach, player and staff member was eligible for Sunday’s game.
The Titans stayed at the JW Marriott on Saturday night, next to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. League protocol requires that all members of the traveling party have their own rooms and also prohibits them from “gathering, visiting, or mingling with people outside the traveling party once they have arrived in. the city of the game ”.
On Sunday, they beat the Vikings 31-30. The team returned home after the match was over.
So no one was tested on Sunday?
Correct. Protocols require daily testing every day except game day. Neither the league nor the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have explicitly explained why, but timing is likely a substantial part of the answer. The results of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, carried out on the morning of a nasal swab match, would likely not be released in time to kick off.
Point-of-care (POC) tests give faster results – PCR tests are usually returned overnight, while POC tests can be returned the same day, and even before kick-off after a morning test – but are not as precise. At the moment, POC tests are only used to help confirm initial positive tests, and the NFL doesn’t trust them yet. And the NFL probably didn’t want to rule out a player or coach based solely on a POC test.
When were they tested next?
All of the Titans and Vikings Level 1 and 2 employees, which include players and coaches, were tested on Monday morning. Of the eight Titans who returned confirmed positive tests, three were gamers and five were employees. They have not been identified. None showed any symptoms, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano. No member of the Vikings returned positive tests.
What about the officials who worked on the Titans-Vikings game on Sunday?
Most officials go home on game night or the next morning. According to their protocol, they are tested twice a week – once in their hometown and once the day before games. Referee Clete Blakeman’s crew worked on this match and will be tested daily this week. None of these officials will work on a game during week 4.
Does this mean that the epidemic is contained?
No. General guidelines from public health officials suggest that it can take up to five to seven days for an infection to be recorded in a test. This is why the Titans facility is closed at least on Saturday. The NFL / NFLPA protocol calls for heightened surveillance for eight days for anyone who has had close contact with someone who has returned a confirmed positive test.
How do they determine close contact?
Protocols follow CDC guidelines: within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes of an infected individual. The league has identified 48 close contacts to watch, based on the contact tracing of the eight confirmed positive people, according to Graziano. It is not known if these are all members of the Titans or if some are members of the Vikings.
This includes contact during a match as well as data recorded by mandatory proximity devices worn by all team employees before and after the match. According to the protocol, “Level 1, Level 2, Level 2M, and Level 3 individuals will also be required to wear Kinexon Proximity Recording Trackers at all times during team activities (including in club facilities, during training and during team travel). ”
Dianna Russini explains the possible origin of the Titans’ coronavirus outbreak and why she doesn’t plan for Tennessee to play their Week 4 game against Pittsburgh.
So, has the virus found the only hole in the protocol?
If the Titans passed the infection on to the Vikings, then yes. The games are the one time of the week in the NFL when social distancing is not possible and the time when an infected person is most likely to breathe on others. This is part of the reason the NFL insisted that coaches and other non-players wear masks on the sideline.
Lack of match-day testing also increases the risk. A POC test on Sunday morning may have caught at least some of the positive results the Titans finally recorded on Monday.
Right. But it looked like the NFL protocols were working.
They were. As of Tuesday morning, there were just four players on the NFL’s COVID-19 roster. Only seven players, and 29 other non-players, had returned positive results during the four testing periods from August 12 to September 19.
But as Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College at Emory University, said earlier this month: “An epidemic can really happen at any time. It is fair to wonder if this will result in a test run on match day.
When can the Vikings and Titans return to their training facilities?
We know the Titans won’t be back until Saturday at the earliest. The Vikings’ return depends on whether or not they receive confirmed positive results.
How long will infected players and staff be kept away from the team?
It is complicated. Here is a flowchart for positive symptomatic and asymptomatic tests.
This graph of NFL protocols goes a long way towards explaining what the Titans and Vikings are doing right now. pic.twitter.com/Z3JLQy43GZ
– Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) September 29, 2020
What about their Week 4 matches?
At the moment, the two are still scheduled to play on Sunday. This could change in the coming hours and days, however. One possibility, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, is to move the Titans game Sunday to Nashville against the Pittsburgh Steelers from Sunday to Monday. The Titans game could also easily be moved to Week 7, if the NFL moves the Steelers’ Week 7 game against the Baltimore Ravens to Week 8, when both have byes. A possible rescheduling of the Vikings’ game to the Houston Texans is less obvious.
The NFL has formed an independent committee made up of former unaffiliated league officials to advise Commissioner Roger Goodell on fairness and justice in these situations. An immediate question is whether it is fair for the Titans to play against the Steelers on Sunday if they have been away from their team’s facilities, and therefore unable to train, all week.