NFL Reduces Mandatory COVID Tests for Asymptomatic Vaccinated Players

The league announced the new protocols in a memo this weekend, saying asymptomatic individuals will no longer be subjected to weekly testing.

A view of the NFL logo on the field before a game
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Image via Getty/Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

A view of the NFL logo on the field before a game

After reporting its highest number of single-day COVID cases, the NFL announced several key changes to its controversial testing protocols.

According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, the league and NFL Players Association have agreed to reduce the frequency of mandatory testing for asymptomatic vaccinated players. The letter, which was sent to all 32 teams on Saturday, states unvaccinated individuals will still be required to test daily, while those who have received the jabs will be subjected to random, targeted testing for the remainder of the season—effectively eliminating weekly testing for vaccinated athletes. If a player who has received their shots begins exhibiting COVID symptoms, they will be immediately isolated and tested.

The memo also states players and personnel can voluntarily test for COVID as much as they’d like; the league has also pledged to provide home-testing kits to athletes and their families. Those who are considered high-risk can also opt out for the rest of the season by submitting a written notice no later than 2 p.m. Monday. The AP reports those who choose to opt out will not be paid.

“Medical information strongly indicates that this variant is significantly more contagious but possibly less severe than prior variants, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a memo. “Our experience with the omicron variant is fully consistent with this expectation – while more players and staff are testing positive, roughly two- thirds of those individuals are asymptomatic, most of the remaining individuals have only mild symptoms, and the virus appears to clear positive individuals more rapidly than was true with the delta or earlier variants. In many respects, omicron appears to be a very different illness from the one that we first confronted in the spring of 2020.”

The changes were announced after the NFL postponed three games scheduled for this weekend. The Raiders-Browns matchup was moved from Saturday to Monday; while the Seahawks-Rams and Washington-Eagles games were both pushed to Tuesday.

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