NFL Facing a COVID Spike as Season Enters Final Four Weeks

An alarming 37 positive tests on Monday may spark changes to the league's current coronavirus protocols

NFL side judge David Meslow wears a mask during a preseason NFL game
NFL side judge David Meslow wears a mask during a preseason NFL game.
Ronald Martinez/Getty

In an important divisional matchup in the NFC West on Monday Night Football, the Los Angeles Rams were able to dispatch the Arizona Cardinals despite playing without  Jalen Ramsey, Darrell Henderson, Rob Havenstein, Dont’e Deayon and Tyler Higbee, all of whom were placed on the NFL’s COVID-19 list prior to the game.

Those five members of the Rams were part of a group of 37 NFL players and team personnel who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, an alarming number that may spark changes to the league’s current coronavirus protocols with four weeks left to play in the regular season. Monday’s positives included at least one case of the Omicron variant, per ESPN. Thirty-seven positive tests in a single day is also concerning considering that the NFL only had 72 positive tests in total in a two-week stretch from November 14 to November 27.

In a memo that was sent out to teams on Monday, the NFL stated that all Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees, excluding players, must get a booster no later than December 27 if they are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

“On November 29, the CDC issued a study showing that the effectiveness of the approved COVID-19 vaccines may decrease over time and has recommended that all eligible vaccinated individuals over the age of 18 should receive a booster shot,” per the memo. “Given the increased prevalence of the virus in our communities, our experts have recommended that we implement the CDC’s recommendation.”

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in other professional sports in the U.S., as the NBA and NHL were each forced to postpone multiple games for the Chicago Bulls and Calgary Flames due to outbreaks amongst players and team personnel.

Concerns about being forced to quarantine for up to five weeks after a positive for COVID-19 at the Winter Olympics in China have some NHL players wondering whether heading overseas to participate in February is worth the risk.

“I think we all hope to go but clearly I think things are a little bit more uneasy than they were,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said Monday. “There’s going to be some hurdles and some challenges currently (where) things stand and the way they present themselves. But yeah, (I’m) probably a little more uneasy, at least speaking for myself, than I was a number of weeks ago or a few months ago. You talk about a five-week quarantine, if you’ve already been over there for a few weeks, that’s a really long time. That’s a long time. That’s a really long time.”

Set to start on February 9 and run until the 20th, the Olympic men’s hockey tournament will end just 10 weeks before the end of the NHL season in April. The league has until January 20 to pull its players out of the Olympics without incurring a financial penalty but could decide to hold them back at an even later date and pay a price.

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