NFL announces changes to COVID-19 testing protocol

The change in COVID-19 protocols come after the Matthew Stafford false positive test

The NFL and NFL Players Association approved of their COVID-19 health and safety protocols just days before the scheduled start date for training camp. Considering it was created not too long ago, the league had it’s first discrepancy.

Last weekend, it was revealed that Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had tested positive for the coronavirus and effectively placed on the teams reserve list. However, Stafford was taken off the list days later after it was determined that he received a false positive, causing the quarterback and his wife to demand changes to the protocol.

Those changes arrived on Friday, as the NFL’s Chief Medical Director, Dr. Allen Sills, sent out a memo to all 32 teams to announce changes to the testing protocol. If a player or employee tests positive for COVID-19, is asymptomatic and has no known history of infection, then they will be given two more tests. Those tests include a Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rt-PCR) test and a Point of Care (POC) test. If the individual yields negative results on both tests, then the player won’t be classified as “infected,” will be permitted to resume normal activity and be allowed access into their respective team facility.

More details about the change in protocol

In the event of an “invalid” result, the individual will be given a POC test the day after. If that comes back negative, then they will undergo an rt-PCR test while being allowed admittance in the team facility. But if that POC result is positive, the individual’s rt-PCR swab will be sent for testing and they must stay away from the facility until the results are received. If that PCR test is negative, then the person must take the POC exam once more. If that yields a negative result, the player/employee will be allowed to enter the facility. But, if the second POC test is positive, then the individual will be deemed a confirmed positive.

Sills continued in his lengthy memo, saying that the 30-day testing exemption period for a person who previously tested positive for the coronavirus begins at the date of the known positive test. Even if the individual is cleared, they will no longer be tested during this span because the virus will continue to be detected in the tests.

Additionally, if a team can’t receive the results of a test by the 24-hour turnaround time due to travel delays or inclement weather, than the club will be permitted to use their POC tests located onsite to fulfill that day’s testing. But a team can only do that if they receive approval from Sills.

These changes are an important step for the NFL to ensure their season can go on without any pauses, delays or cancellations.

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