The NFL’s response to the COVID-19 crisis is a bit like the virus itself: evolving. With vaccination rates continuing to soar, the NFL has expressed openness to changes in their COVID protocols.
NFL vaccination rates have league open to change in COVID protocols
In a conference call with national reporters Wednesday evening, Dr. Allen Sills — the league’s chief medical officer — strongly disputed the NFLPA’s assertion that there have been COVID outbreaks within the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons headquarters. But he also left open the possibility of more frequent testing for vaccinated players and increased mask mandates.
“I think our approach is always to be flexible and adaptable and open to what the data is showing us,” Sills said. “We’re going to follow the data.”
And that data is actually pretty encouraging.
More than nine in 10 NFL players have gotten at least one shot — a figure that runs far ahead of the national average. The latest figures from the CDC show that less than half of adults aged 25-39 are fully vaccinated, and roughly four in 10 haven’t had even a single shot.
And while there have been small pockets of infection around the league — four Dolphins’ players and an assistant coach have been sidelined by the NFL’s protocol — Sills said there’s been no evidence of uncontrolled spread within any locker room.
“We have seen situations where we’ve had multiple cases within one team,” Sills said. “I do not agree that we’re having outbreaks in any of our clubs right now.”
As a result, the league has no immediate plans to increase testing among vaccinated players with no symptoms and who have had no close contact with an infected individual.
NFL has fewer positive tests
The NFL has tested more than 7,000 people for COVID-19 since players reported to camp last month. And despite a massive surge in cases in several states, including Florida and Texas, the league is seeing fewer positive tests now than it did this time last year.
That’s a reflection of the commitment by the vast majority of NFL players to get vaccinated. And in the still relatively rare instances of breakthrough cases, those who are both vaccinated and COVID-19 positive have had minor symptoms, if any at all.
“The vaccination rates among players and staff are really high,” said Dr. Christina Mack, an epidemiologist who advises the NFL on the pandemic. “It’s impressive. And we know that vaccination is protective against the disease and it’s really important for public health. That we know.”
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