NFL halts COVID testing for unvaccinated players

  • ESPN.com national NFL writer
  • ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
  • Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008

The NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to halt daily COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated players, aligning them with protocols developed last month for vaccinated players and coaches.

In a memo sent Friday afternoon to teams, the league said it would add unvaccinated players to its existing symptom screening and testing surveillance programs. Anyone who reports symptoms will be tested.

The NFL’s most recent COVID-19 data release reported that 95% of players and nearly 100% of staff members are vaccinated. The change will apply to a small group of people.

With only eight teams left in the playoffs, there are roughly 12 unvaccinated players remaining, a source told ESPN. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose 90-day testing exemption following a positive case was set to expire soon, is one of them.

In the memo, the NFL wrote: “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 NFL began experiencing an omicron-fueled spike in mid-December. Between December 12 and January 8, 756 players and 478 staff members tested positive. A majority of them were asymptomatic, according to the league, prompting a shift away from daily testing.

Between September 5 and December 11, the NFL averaged 19,253 tests for each two-week testing period. For the period between December 26 and January 8, there were 12,491 tests administered.

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