Nov. 19 (UPI) — The NFL will move all 32 teams into its intensive protocol for COVID-19 starting Saturday.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the move Wednesday in a memo issued to NFL teams. Intensive protocol had been reserved for teams that had positive tests or were exposed to a team with positive tests.
Twenty-eight teams have been in the protocol at some point this season.
“These measures are not meant to be punitive, but are intended to mitigate the risk of further transmission among the team and to offer as much protection as possible to players and staff,” the NFL said in a news release.
“Full implementation of these measures will allow the club to continue football activities while keeping everyone as safe as possible.”
Starting Saturday, through the end of the season, players and staff from teams must have a negative test from the previous day before they enter their respective facilities, in addition to regular daily testing.
All meetings will be held virtually, unless they can be held outside or inside with a pre-approved plan. Face masks must be worn at all times in facilities and on practice fields.
The protocol also mandates that meals must be served takeout style to prevent congregation. Team and player gatherings away from the facility are prohibited.
The protocol was introduced on Oct. 1. The league found that teams that moved into the protocol had more than a 50% reduction in overall close contacts with others at their facilities, compared to teams that were not following the protocol.
The lower number of contacts — or fewer people at facilities — helped to limit the risk of virus spread as it gave those in buildings more space between each other in locker rooms, meeting rooms, treatment rooms and on practice fields.
“The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now,” Goodell wrote in the memo.
“Because we have a highly sophisticated program of daily testing, we know when the virus enters our facilities, which underscores the importance of contact tracing and other steps to minimize close contacts within a facility.
No NFL clubs that have been in the protocol have experienced a spread of the virus during that time.
“Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimizing high-risk close contacts; on multiple occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short time,” Goodell said.
“We have also seen many instances in which effective action by clubs to minimize these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club, and avoided players or coaches being ruled out of practice or games.”
Twenty-two players from active rosters were added to reserve/COVID-19 lists from Monday through Wednesday, according to the NFL’s transaction wire.