The COVID-19 pandemic has marched through the world at a devastating rate. Despite the tragedy, the National Football League has gotten through over half of a season, which was entirely unexpected. How did they pull it off?
Prior to the season, the NFL and NFL Players’ Association put together a collection of rules and standards to ensure that all NFL players and workers would be as safe as possible when the season began. First, they created an incredibly advanced and impressive testing system in order to find those with the virus and allow them to isolate to stop the transmission of the virus. They divided the entire NFL into three sections: “Players and essential football personnel” are section 1, “essential personnel” who are less associated with the players are section 2, and people that “perform essential facility, stadium or event services” are section 3 (NFL/NFLPA COVID Agreement). Sections 1 and 2 people are tested every day with players needing a negative result the day before a game in order to participate. Section 3 people are tested less frequently, around once a week. All of the NFL workers’ have rapid COVID-19 testing, with lab tests being for teams with COVID suspected, and antibody tests available if requested. This system is obviously very advanced and intricut, but what happens if somebody tests positive for COVID-19? Players without symptoms must spend 10 days away from the team or have two negative results a day apart. Players with symptoms must spend 10 days away from when symptoms started and must be symptom-free for at least one day. So far, 95 NFL players have tested positive, along with almost 200 other workers (Chicago Tribune). Despite these alarming numbers, teams have acted appropriately to ensure that the transmission of the virus within a team is low, which has allowed the season to continue on.
As for fans, there are extremely strict rules that must be obeyed in order to allow them to go to games (NFL Fan Gameday Playbook). There is social distancing from fan-to-fan and fan-to-player. Additionally, there is a mask requirement in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Like in Blind Brook, there are one-way paths in order to ensure social distancing.
As of Week 11 of the 2020 NFL Season, things have been running relatively smooth with regards to COVID-19, and these rules have clearly been effective. In order for the season to continue safely, all players, workers, and fans of the NFL must continue to take the pandemic seriously and prioritize health over gameplay.