All NFL teams to enter intensive COVID-19 protocol Saturday

The NFL is placing all teams in intensive protocol starting Saturday to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 as the number of cases rises around the country

The NFL is placing all teams in intensive protocol starting Saturday to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 as the number of cases rises around the country.

Use of masks will be mandatory at all times at team facilities, including during practice and in weight rooms. Meetings must be held either virtually or in the largest indoor space with approval by the league. Meals have to be made available for grab-and-go to avoid players and staff congregating in cafeterias. Time spent in the locker room also has to be limited.

Clubs operating under the intensive protocols have reduced close contacts by more than 50% since the fifth week of the regular season, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press that was sent from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to teams on Wednesday.

So far, 28 teams have entered intensive protocol at some point and 16 teams have done it more than once.

“The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now,” Goodell wrote. “Because we have a highly sophisticated program of daily testing, we know when the virus enters our facilities, which underscores the importance of contact tracing and other steps to minimize close contacts within a facility.

“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. 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.”

The NFL said Tuesday there were 17 new confirmed positives among players and 35 among other personnel during testing from Nov. 8-14. That brought the league’s total to 95 players and 175 other personnel since Aug. 1, not counting new cases this week.

“The biggest motivator I find when we talk to the clubs about this is simply that if they are not in compliance with the protocols from a mask-wearing perspective or for some reason somebody forgot their device or something like that, they’re much more likely to be identified as a high-risk close contact than they would otherwise,” said Jeff Miller, the league’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy.

Teams previously in intensive protocols have been the Falcons, Cardinals, Ravens, Bears, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Texans, Colts, Chiefs, Dolphins, Saints, Steelers and 49ers.

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP—NFL

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