NFL cuts isolation time for players who test positive

Kansas City Chiefs

The NFL is reducing isolation time for players who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, including unvaccinated players, from 10 days to five.

The league and the NFL Players Association revised the protocols Tuesday after the CDC changed its guidelines for those who are asymptomatic, recommending a five-day isolation period and masking over the second five days.

In a memo sent to teams and obtained by The Associated Press, players and essential football personnel can return under the following conditions:

  • Five days have passed since a positive COVID-19 test.
  • At least 24 hours have passed since the individual last had a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • Other symptoms, including a cough, have resolved or improved.
  • The club’s head primary care sports medicine physician, after consultation with Infection Control for Sports and notification of the NFL chief medical officer, determines that the individual may return to the club facility and interact with other club employees/contractors.
  • Any local regulations or requirements are satisfied.

Fully vaccinated individuals may continue to “test out” of isolation sooner than five days after the positive test, and should stop testing at Day 5 and return under the updated guidance, assuming all other perquisites have been satisfied.

Masks must be worn on the sideline and at all times except when playing and practicing for five days after return.

Masks must be worn by all players and staff indoors at team facilities. Players and staff are not permitted to eat together. A limit of 15 people applies for weight rooms. Also, even fully vaccinated staff and players are encouraged to avoid public areas including restaurants, bars and social gatherings.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

The decision also was driven by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, propelled by the omicron variant.

Early research suggests omicron may cause milder illnesses than earlier versions of the coronavirus. But the sheer number of people becoming infected — and therefore having to isolate or quarantine — threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open, experts say.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the country is about to see a lot of omicron cases.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” she told The Associated Press on Monday. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

This could be good news for the Chiefs if the remaining players on their reserve/COVID list are asymptomatic.

The last time the Chiefs added someone on the active roster to their COVID list was Dec. 21, more than five days ago, when a whopping seven players tested positive that day, including Tyreek Hill.

At one point the Chiefs had 13 players from their active roster on the COVID list. They managed to get several, including Hill, cleared in time for last Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Three more Chiefs players cleared the COVID list on Monday, but they’re still waiting for key players like tight end Travis Kelce, kicker Harrison Butker and punter Tommy Townsend to get the OK.

On Tuesday, the team didn’t add anymore players to the reserve/COVID list — a good sign — but the Chiefs also didn’t add any other players back to the active roster, according to the NFL transaction report.

Still, the Chiefs did waive fill-in kicker Elliott Fry and terminate the contract of punter Johnny Townsend. Both are good signs for the return of Butker and Tommy Townsend in the near future.

The Chiefs face the Bengals this Sunday in Cincinnati at noon.

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