NFL cites outside influences for recent positive tests

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 file photo, Cleveland Browns strong safety Andrew Sendejo (23) tackles Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) after a pass reception during the second half of an NFL football game in Cleveland. The Cleveland Browns added starting safety Andrew Sendejo and rookie tight end Harrison Bryant to their lengthy COVID-19 list, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 file photo, Cleveland Browns strong safety Andrew Sendejo (23) tackles Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) after a pass reception during the second half of an NFL football game in Cleveland. The Cleveland Browns added starting safety Andrew Sendejo and rookie tight end Harrison Bryant to their lengthy COVID-19 list, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The NFL cites outside influences for the most recent set of positive coronavirus tests, including exposures during the holiday season.

There were 21 new confirmed positive tests among players and 37 among other personnel in the league’s latest round of testing for COVID-19.

Dr. Allen Sills, the league's chief medical officer, referred to three sources of exposure: household, outside medical providers, and community/social settings.

“We shared that message with all our clubs and the players association,” Sills said Wednesday, noting that the holiday season is not over. He also mentioned that there has been widespread testing with family members “and as we've seen the numbers rise, clubs have seen that and tried to test more family members.”

Sills and his staff conducted a call with the 32 clubs on Tuesday as the league looks toward the postseason for 14 teams and the offseason for the rest.

“We're doing calls with the teams headed or potentially headed to the playoffs,” he said. “To share what we have learned over five months and how we can double down as we enter the playoffs. We had a call last night looking at planning for the offseason” for such items as cadence of testing and contact tracing.

Dawn Aponte, the league's chief administrative officer for football operations, stressed that the “protocols will not change as we head into the postseason.”

“We also issued a memo that covered post-elimination protocols," she said. "They apply for seven days following (a team's) elimination, and include daily testing and other protocols that will remain in place. Following those seven days, the testing would be handed over to the club for how they would like to conduct that.”

The NFL has played all 240 games scheduled through Week 16, although there have been several games moved to new dates because of COVID-19 issues.

Aponte called it “a Herculean effort.”

“From a football perspective, one of the key things was the ability for them to understand how these things were working,” she said of the protocols, which continuously were enhanced throughout the season. “It has really helped as well in people following them and staying safe.”

Of those 240 games, 102 had fans on hand, and the NFL hit the million mark for attendance last weekend. It expects to have seven games with fans in the stadium on Sunday when every team finishes the regular season.

“These are testaments to protocols and the clubs for working so closely with public health (backslash)officials and with health experts to ensure our fans could attend the games, and safely,” said Jeff Miller, the league's executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy.

“As we are thinking about Feb. 7 and getting to the Super Bowl, we all think about the many weeks it has taken to get here with an appreciation and gratitude.”

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