The NFL will stop daily testing of all players — vaccinated or unvaccinated — for the remaining playoff teams.
According to the Associated Press, a memo was sent to all 32 NFL franchises on Friday that said medical experts from the NFL and the players’ union decided to halt daily testing of the remaining postseason teams for COVID-19.
“Following consultation with our jointly retained infectious disease experts, the NFL and NFL Players Association have updated the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols to eliminate the distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated players to determine testing cadence,” the memo stated. “Effective immediately, all players and tiered staff will be subject to strategic and targeted testing.”
All players and tiered staff are now subject to enhanced symptom screening, symptom-based testing, and targeted surveillance testing, according to NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero.
“Of all the unvaccinated players still on playoff teams, only about a dozen haven’t had COVID already, per source,” Pelissero wrote on Twitter.
According to the league’s latest data that goes through Jan. 8, nearly 95% of NFL players are vaccinated against COVID-19, and nearly 100% of NFL personnel are vaccinated.
“Individuals on a 90-day test ‘holiday’ after having COVID are still subject to testing if they have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status,” Pelissero added. “So while positive tests are near-zero right now, it’s still possible any player could miss a playoff game, if they’re sick.”
NFL.com reported, “The NFLPA-approved change has been made based on info gathered over the past month on the Omicron variant. NFL and NFLPA medical experts saw a decrease in positive cases during that span, an encouraging sign for the league as a whole following decisions to implement targeted testing and revise the window for players to return from COVID protocol late last year.”
The NFL regular season ended on Jan. 9, which sent home 20 of the league’s 32 teams. There were eight teams in action for this weekend’s divisional-round playoff games.
According to Worldometer data, the 7-day moving average of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. had a pandemic high of 895,925 on Jan. 7, but there were still 800,700 new COVID-19 cases recorded on Jan. 21.
Last month, the NFL instituted new COVID-19 testing protocols after the league’s chief medical officer revealed that asymptomatic players were not transmitting coronavirus. Dr. Allen Sills — the NFL’s chief medical officer — stated that the league had not seen any verifiable asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 this season.
The change in health protocols in December eliminated weekly testing for vaccinated players, but still required daily testing for unvaccinated players.