Under new guidelines, symptomatic players and staff will only sit out five days
The CDC announced on Monday that the recommended time for isolation after a positive COVID test has shortened from 10 to 5 days, with the next five days spent wearing a mask while around others. The NFL and NFLPA, who lightened their previous COVID testing regulations on December 17, are reportedly discussing the adoption of the new CDC guidelines for players who have tested positive. Adam Schefter tweeted that sources said the agreement could be finished as early as later today.
The CDC’s new guidelines are limited to asymptomatic individuals, which it’s unclear whether the NFL’s new policy will adequately reflect. In a league that has seen teams decimated by COVID protocols, this will allow many currently isolated players to return earlier than expected for games this upcoming weekend.
Monday saw a record number of players placed on the COVID reserve list at 106, all of whom (if asymptomatic) would theoretically be able to return for Sunday games if their team were playing, including the Bucs’ Mike Evans and the Titans’ Julio Jones, who will be a key piece in Tennessee’s matchup against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
It is also unclear as to whether players would wear a mask during practices and games for five days following their isolation, as recommended by the CDC. As the NFL regular season wraps up over the next two Sundays, this adjustment would be an enormous help to teams attempting to qualify for playoffs, particularly those who have lost quarterbacks for a week or two due to existing COVID protocols.
This may signal a pretty significant change for unvaccinated players in particular, who are currently required to sit out for 10 days, if they are included in the updated protocols. Vaccinated players are currently able to “test out” of isolation early.
Over 816,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, though the introduction of the vaccine has slowed the death rate considerably compared to late 2020 and early 2021. The newest variant of the vaccine, Omicron, has a high rate of transmission and is not as susceptible to the vaccine as previous variants, though preliminary studies have indicated that the illness accompanying the virus is not as severe as it has been with other variants.