NFL drops daily COVID-19 testing requirement for unvaccinated players

The NFL on Friday announced an update to its COVID-19 testing protocols, ending a daily testing requirement for unvaccinated players, according to multiple reports.

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The new guidance came in a memo sent Friday to the eight teams remaining in the playoffs, The Athletic reported. The change, which the NFL Players Association agreed to, removes the distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated players, according to NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero.

Those who show symptoms of COVID-19 will still be required to undergo testing, Pelissero reported.

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In the memo, obtained by ESPN, officials said the new protocols were created based on the league’s experience with the omicron variant of COVID-19. The highly transmissible variant has fueled a spike in infections reported nationwide.

“This comprehensive, symptom-based approach to testing reflects our recent experience with the omicron variant and conforms to current public health recommendations and best practices employed in healthcare, and offers the best opportunity for identifying and treating cases promptly and avoiding spread within the facility,” the memo said, according to ESPN.

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About a dozen players in the playoff teams remain unvaccinated, the sports news network reported.

League officials said infections stemming from the omicron variant led to a spike in COVID-19 cases beginning in mid-December. Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 8, the most recent data released by the NFL, 380 players and nearly 250 league personnel tested positive for COVID-19. Between Aug. 1 and Jan. 8, officials reported just over 960 positive COVID-19 tests among players and just over 800 positive tests for personnel members.