Jan 26, 2021 - Sports

CDC looks at lessons learned from NFL's testing and contact tracing protocols

A detail of Covid-19 related signage prior to the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium
Signage prior to the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The NFL found that transmission of COVID-19 occurred in less than 15 minutes of cumulative interaction between individuals, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: The protocols and resources for contact tracing and testing allowed the 32 teams to complete its regular season and the playoffs on time with only the Super Bowl remaining.

  • The league along with the NFL Players Association identified four factors when players and staff came in contact with each other: whether masks were in use, how well the room was ventilated, how long the interaction was and the physical distance between the two parties.

By the numbers: About 623,000 COVID-19 tests were performed on approximately 11,400 players and staff members and nearly 3% tested positive between Aug. 9 and Nov. 21.

  • Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 10, a total of 41 cases were identified among players and staff. Of those, 21 showed transmission within a single team, requiring closure of that team's facilities.
  • When infection rates climbed in November, the league intensified protocols, mandating high-risk interaction tracing and negative daily PCR testing, among other social rules.

Reality check: The CDC says intensive testing and contact tracing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the model set by the football league could be too costly for other industries to copy.

What to watch: Only the Super Bowl remains, where Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play on Feb. 7 in Tampa with a limited crowd of about 22,000 fans.

  • The league announced Monday it will give away 7,500 tickets to vaccinated health care workers.
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