How Will the NFL’s COVID-19 Outbreak Affect the Rest of the 2020 Season?

by Josh Lanier
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The NFL plans to postpone Sunday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans until Monday or Tuesday after several players tested positive for COVID-19. Tennessee’s starting nose tackle DaQuan Jones, long-snapper Beau Brinkley, and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson, along with five team personnel members, tested positive for the virus, ESPN reports.

The league said it will make a decision on when the teams will play after more testing. But what this means for the rest of the season is unclear. So far, it doesn’t appear that this outbreak will upset the NFL’s plans for 2020.

The Titans closed team facilities until Saturday. The team will do all preparations for the Steelers game via video conferencing, the Guardian reports. The Minnesota Vikings, who played the Titans last week also closed team facilities as a precaution. So far, no one on the Vikings has tested positive for the virus.

How the NFL tackles COVID-19

An outbreak wasn’t unexpected. With COVID-19’s high reproduction rates, players or team staff catching and spreading the virus was inevitable. The NBA keeps its teams in an isolated bubble to avoid any outside transmission reaching players. But this was not an option for the NFL, with 55 players on each team not including staff. The goal for the NFL has always been to reduce transmissions and contain those who contract the virus. They’ve done this through strict rules with stiff penalties and rigorous testing.

In a letter to teams, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the most recent positive tests. He admits an outbreak does not come as a major surprise.

“This is not unexpected,” Goodell wrote in the letter obtained by ESPN. “There will be players and staff who will test positive during the season.”

Players and team staff and tested every day but on gameday, per the rules established between the league and NFL Players’ Association, according to The Sporting News. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must stay home until they have been asymptomatic for at least 10 days with two straight days of negative tests. Any players who test positive must also be cleared by team doctors and go through additional cardiac testing.

ESPN said the Titans players who tested positive were asymptomatic as of Tuesday.

Outsider.com