NFL tightens COVID rules by placing all teams in intensive protocol amid rise in cases

The NFL is placing all teams in intensive protocol from Saturday to mitigate the risk of coronavirus as the number of cases rises around the country.

Included in the new rules is the mandatory use of masks at all times at team facilities, including during practice and in weight rooms, while meetings must be held either virtually or in the largest indoor space with approval by the league.

All meals have to be made available for grab-and-go to avoid players and staff congregating in cafeterias and time spent in the locker room also has to be limited.

Clubs operating under the intensive protocols have reduced close contacts by more than 50 per cent since the fifth week of the regular season, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press that was sent from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to teams on Wednesday.

Goodell said: “The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now.

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“Because we have a highly sophisticated program of daily testing, we know when the virus enters our facilities, which underscores the importance of contact tracing and other steps to minimise close contacts within a facility.

“Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimising high-risk close contacts; on multiple occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short time.

“We have also seen many instances in which effective action by clubs to minimise these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club, and avoided players or coaches being ruled out of practice or games.”

This week, the Washington Football team reported their first coronavirus case in the organisation, as they, the Cleveland Browns and the Los Angeles Rams join a number of teams to report positive tests this week.

The New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and Las Vegas Raiders have put players on the COVID-19 list, while the NFL have said there were 17 new confirmed positives among players and 35 among other personnel during testing from November 8 to 14.

That brought the league’s total to 95 players and 175 other personnel since August 1, not counting the new cases this week.

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