BOSTON (CBS) — With COVID-19 cases spiking around the country and within the league, the NFL is trying to be proactive in order to prevent a disruption to the season.
Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to all 32 teams on Wednesday, informing them that they will all enter intensive protocol, beginning on Saturday. Previously, only teams with positive cases or teams exposed to other teams with positive cases were placed in the protocol.
What that means for teams is that all meetings must either be held virtually or in large, open spaces. It also means players must wear masks or face shields during practice. The protocol also limits locker room and weight room time for players and staff.
The letter called for a ban on gatherings, too, which is timely, considering Thanksgiving is next week.
“The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now,” Goodell wrote. “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 minimize close contacts within a facility. Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimizing high-risk close contacts.”
The memo pointed out that teams that have been in intensive protocol this season have seen a reduction in close contacts by more than 50 percent, thus limiting the spread of the virus once it enters a facility.
“It has been said many times that our 2020 season cannot be ‘normal’ because nothing about this year is normal,” Goodell wrote. “Flexibility and adaptability have been critical to our success to date and we must continue with that approach.”
The league said that 28 teams have already been in intensive protocol at some point this season. That list of course includes the Patriots, who had a rash of positive cases in Week 4, beginning with quarterback Cam Newton.
Teams will remain in intensive protocol until the end of the season.