NFL announces updated COVID-19 protocols, testing strategy

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Posted at 12:45 PM, Dec 18, 2021

Following the postponement of three games this weekend, including the Las Vegas Raiders against the Browns, the National Football League and National Football League Players Association have announced new protocols for COVID-19 testing and screening.

The Raiders game was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Cleveland. It's now set for Monday at 2 p.m.

On Saturday, the NFL announced updated protocols that change the frequency of testing and the way players and staff are screened for the virus prior to each day at a team's facilities.

RELATED: NFL postpones Raiders game, 2 others scheduled for this weekend over COVID-19 outbreaks

Effective immediately, players and staff will be subject to a new screening system before entering a club facility each day, checking for symptomatic individuals.

Fully vaccinated individuals who report symptoms will be immediately tested with the Mesa rapid test and isolated away from others while the results of the test are gathered. If the results are negative, the individual can then enter the facility but must be tested daily and wear a mask for three days or until symptoms stop—whichever comes first.

Unvaccinated individuals who report symptoms will be required to isolate immediately and receive PCR testing. The individual will not be permitted in the club facilities until receiving two negative PCR tests taken 24 hours apart.

As for the daily testing of all players and staff under enhanced protocols, with the updated rules, players and staff will be subjected to targeted testing.

Fully vaccinated individuals will be required to undergo targeted spot testing that will be directed by the NFL's Chief Medical Officer, which will include sample selection based on position and staff grouping. Teams will be informed which individuals will be required to test each week and if positive tests are received during the targeted testing, a club may then be subject to additional testing, as well as mitigation efforts to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.

Individuals who are determined to be "High Risk Vaccinated Contacts" after contact tracing stemming from a positive test will be told by the NFL's CMO how many days they will need to test to monitor for the virus.

The NFL and NFLPA are also implementing voluntary testing for players at club facilities and will provide at-home tests for them and the people who live with them. Positive at-home test results from a player or those close to them are required to be reported to their team.

For unvaccinated players, daily PCR testing will continue to be required and those who miss a test will be subject to the five-day re-entry testing before being allowed to enter the team's facilities.

Players trying out for a team and "street" free agents will still be required to produce a negative Mesa rapid test before entering the club facility if vaccinated, and if unvaccinated are subject to the five-day re-entry testing before being allowed to enter.

Staffing at NFL club facilities has been limited under the updated protocols. Essential Football Personnel—including coaches, equipment managers, athletic trainers, IT support, football, video staff and daily medical staff—has been capped at 70 people.

Essential Support Personnel—including food preparation staff, security, field personnel, cleaning staff, club communications staff and club media—has been capped at 25 people.

Teams will be able to designate 10 individuals each week that can enter the club facility to provide medical consultation, massages and haircuts to players. Those individuals must have a negative Mesa rapid test before entering the facility.

Media has been limited to 15 members, including both club and non-club affiliated, at outdoor practices.

The changes come after the protocols were updated for this week's games specifically.

"The intensive protocols implemented last week and the rescheduling of three games were designed to stop the transmission of the virus and play this week's games safely," the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement. "After this weekend's games, we have agreed to put into place a new set of protocols, which will include a more targeted testing plan, more flexibility for players to attend meetings virtually and also a high-risk player opt-out for the remainder of the season."

The status of players and staff who remain on COVID-19 lists are not changed by the updated protocols and are still subject to the testing-out requirements outlined by the NFL and NFLPA.

Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.