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CDC endorses NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 efforts for use in other settings

Peter King and Mike Florio look at how the pandemic could affect the experience for both the Buccaneers and Chiefs ahead of Super Bowl LV.

The NFL has managed to play a full season, with one game to go, amid a pandemic that continues to show no signs of subsiding. The NFL’s efforts to function in this environment have gotten the attention, approval, and active cooperation of the CDC.

Earlier this week, the CDC and NFL-NFLPA medical experts jointly published a paper regarding the league’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy.

Here’s the most important point: The CDC believes that the NFL’s measures can apply throughout American society to limit the spread of the virus “to settings such as long-term care facilities, schools, and high-density environments.”

Among other things, the NFL has learned that transmission can occur in fewer than 15 minutes of cumulative interaction with among individuals; the CDC originally believed that at least 15 minutes was required. The league’s development of a new definition for high-risk contact and the adoption of intensive protocols during the season “are applicable to non-sports settings, such as essential workplaces, long-term care facilities, and schools,” according to a press release issued by the league earlier this week.

“We are grateful for the CDC’s ongoing guidance and collaboration since the beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic,” NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills said in the press release. “The publication today is a demonstration of the league’s commitment to meaningfully contribute to the body of medical and scientific knowledge about the virus. Partnering with the CDC to share findings from our season with the public health community is important to society as other workplaces, institutions and organizations look for effective strategies to reduce the risk of the virus.”

While the NFL has the financial resources -- and financial incentive -- to find a way to make things work, the strategies developed by the NFL regarding close contacts and intensive protocols have relevance, per the joint CDC, NFL-NFLPA paper “to other settings, including essential workplaces, long-term care facilities, and schools.”

So here’s the message to those responsible for essential workplaces, long-term care facilities, and schools: If you want to improve your procedures, study what the NFL has done. If you’re responsible for essential workplaces, long-term care facilities, and/or schools and you want more information about what the NFL has done, let us know and we’ll try to point you in the right direction.