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NFL to impose 'intensive' coronavirus protocols on a 'mandatory, league-wide basis'

NFL to impose 'intensive' coronavirus protocols on a 'mandatory, league-wide basis'
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The NFL will impose “intensive” coronavirus protocols on a “mandatory, league-wide basis” starting this Saturday, according to a memo obtained by The Hill. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the teams in the memo distributed Wednesday that they would all follow intensive protocols to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among players and other employees. 

He cited “the sharp growth in Covid-19 cases in our communities” and the “related increase in cases” within the clubs as reasoning for the stricter rules. 

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Under the intensive protocols, masks are required in team facilities, including during practice and in the weight rooms. Meetings are mandated to be held virtually unless they are held outdoors or in an approved large indoor space. 

Meals will be served on a “grab and go” basis, as people will be prohibited from sitting or gathering in the cafeteria. Using the locker rooms is “strongly discouraged,” and any use is limited to less than 15 minutes per person. 

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

“Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimizing high-risk close contacts; on multiple occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short time,” he added. “We have also seen many instances in which effective action by clubs to minimize these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club, and avoided players or coaches being ruled out of practice or games.”

Goodell wrote that 28 teams have entered intensive protocols at some point during the 2020 season and 16 teams have done so at least twice. He said data shows that the teams that run under the intensive protocols reduced close contacts by more than 50 percent since the fifth week of the regular season. 

“These sustained reductions and the resulting health and safety benefits make it appropriate to implement the intensive protocols on a mandatory, league-wide basis,” he said in the memo.

The league announced the upcoming changes after the Cleveland Browns closed its facility after the second positive COVID-19 test on Monday.

The Washington Football Team announced this week that it will not host fans in the stands this Sunday as coronavirus has surged in the area. The team made the announcement hours before reporting one of its players tested positive.