The National Football League and its players association have agreed to end the league's COVID-19 protocols, according to an internal memo obtained by CBS News on Thursday. Effectively immediately, players will no longer be required to follow the rules implemented at the beginning of the pandemic, making the NFL one of the first major sports leagues to drop its COVID-19 protocols.
The memo, sent to all NFL teams and staff, cited "encouraging trends regarding the prevalence and severity of COVID-19, the evolving guidance from the CDC, changes to state law and the counsel of our respective experts" as the reasons behind the change.
Teams are still required to follow current restrictions in their state, but the league has said it will no longer mandate the major provisions of its COVID-19 protocol, including testing, mask wearing, COVID-19 signage, isolation and room capacity limits. The move comes as states across America continue to see downward trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates.
Players who test positive will still be required to notify their teams but will only have to isolate for the CDC's recommended five days. Teams will also still be required to maintain a space in their club facilities for 10 "Mesa docks," where players can go if they report symptoms and need a COVID-19 test.
"We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of players, coaches and staff, as we have throughout the pandemic," the NFL Management Council said in a memo obtained by CBS News. "Should there be a reason to reimpose aspects of the Protocols or to take other measures, we will work closely with clubs, the NFLPA and our respective experts, and local, state and federal public health officials to continue to safeguard the health of the NFL."
Both the 2020 and 2021 NFL seasons took place without a single canceled game due to COVID-19, but several were. During the spread of the Omicron variant several months ago, NFL officials emphasized their focus on guidance from the CDC and other health experts as the reasoning behind the schedule changes.
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