The NFL’s Covid-19 policies are about to be tested
The NFL has been struck with its first COVID-19 outbreak in Tennessee. On Tuesday, eight members of the Tennessee Titans organization received positive test results for the virus. The names of these members have not been released, but we do know that it is three players and five staff that have been infected.
The Titans have announced that due to the circumstances, all operations will be suspended until Saturday. This includes any in-person practices.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Titan’s Sunday game against the Pittsburgh Steelers has the green light unless the severity of the situation increases.
The Titans linebacker coach, Shane Bowen, had tested positive on Saturday before leaving for their game in Minneapolis. He was not able to attend the game, but it seems like some players had been infected already. This, of course, means bad news for the Minnesota Vikings as well. The Vikings have not received any positive tests but have shut down all facilities and operations until further notice.
This is the first instance of an outbreak in the NFL and our first look at how they will handle these situations. It is also a good look at the preventive measures the NFL is taking. To start, all players get tested every day other than game day.
The NFL has also assigned tiers for employees. The higher your tier, the more time you spend around players (or you are a player), and the more you get tested. Tier one and tier two employees got tested on Monday morning since their game was on Sunday.
Close contact is another question. Fifteen minutes at six feet apart makes someone your close contact. One of the NFL’s more advertised initiatives (you may have seen their commercials during game day) is players have wristbands to track their location. Based on this, they can see who has spent time around you and for how long. As of right now, the number thrown out for total close contacts is 48.
What happens to these close contacts? Well, the NFL has a big flowchart for what their protocol is. It is essentially the same as the rest of the world: get a test and wait for your results. The big difference is that in the NFL you can test and get your results back in potentially 24 hours. This means by the end of the week, there should be a very good understanding of what the situation is for the two teams and if any further action will need to be taken.
The NFL is prepared and willing to adjust game schedules. At what point is a game forced to be rescheduled? The NFL has a ‘fairness’ committee that is supposed to determine that. As far as I can guess, their job is to determine whether a team has lost too much talent to COVID.
We’ll use the local favorite Vikings as an example. Say that Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Eric Hendricks all test positive. At that point, too many key players are gone to make it a true measure of the Vikings talent. On the other hand, if three backups went out, we would probably still see the Vikings taking the field that week.
That is all an educated hypothesis but should give a general idea of what that committee would be looking at. Time will have to tell on how this story develops and what happens with the Titans and Vikings. Will this be what brings down the undefeated Titans?