The National Football League and the NFL Players Association on Thursday approved new rules that put the league’s 32 teams in restrictive protocols through Monday. It comes on the heels of a nearly doubling of Covid-19 cases among gamers earlier this week.
More testing will be required from December 26 to January 8, and masks will be required for players, coaches and staff on the bench, as well as in the locker room, weight room, training room and while traveling with teams, according to a memo.
Wojnarowski, citing the memo, also stated that if a player received a booster shot more than two weeks ago, “they will not undergo a holiday or game day test.”
CNN has reached out to the NBA and the Players’ Association for comment.
The rise in the number of cases has already caused headaches for teams in various professional sports.
While the NFL has not postponed or canceled any games, several teams have lost key players who were placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. The National Basketball Association has so far postponed two games while the pandemic has caused the National Hockey League to postpone 10 games so far.
On Thursday an NHL game was played in Montreal without fans present.
Canadiens said Quebec officials made the request based on the “escalating rise in COVID-19 cases in the region.”
The team said matches in January will be played on the pitch at 50% capacity.
Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations in the United States are increasing again, with a seven-day average of 118,717 new cases each day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s 40% higher than it was a month ago.
Anxiety among players
An NFL source told CNN that 28 NFL players tested positive for the new coronavirus on Tuesday and there were 37 positive tests among the players on Monday.
The two-day total of testing is more than double the players’ 29 positive tests between November 14 and 27, the last publicly released testing data from the NFL.
CNN has reached out to the league for an updated number of positive cases.
Under the new NFL protocol, teams will have to re-impose restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing while inside team facilities, social distancing, fast-food service in team cafeterias, restrictions on the number of people allowed in weight rooms, and restrictions on activities outside the facility. Including takeout dining on the road and all virtual meetings.
And at least one player isn’t happy at all. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield, one of a dozen Browns on the Reserve/Covid-19 roster, speaks ahead of his team’s scheduled game Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders.
In another tweet, Mayfield wrote, “A real concern for player safety means game delays as this rate continues.”
The Browns are scheduled to play the Las Vegas Raiders in Cleveland on Saturday.
CNN asked Browns to update the number of players on the Reserve/Covid-19 roster. As of Wednesday, there were 14 players but it was not clear if all test results were known at the time.
In addition, the Washington Soccer team has 21 players on the roster and the Los Angeles Rams 25 players. The NFL roster includes 53 players.
The NFL describes the Reserve/Covid-19 List as being for players who have tested positive for Covid-19 or who have been quarantined after close contact with an infected person or people.
The NFL medical chief says two-thirds of players who have tested positive have not had symptoms
Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters at an NFL meeting in Irving, Texas, that the NFL has no plans yet to postpone the Brown Raiders game.
“We feel confident with continued changes and adjustments to our protocols that we can make,” Goodell said Wednesday.
The league and the players’ union also made changes to allow players who did not show symptoms of the disease to “test” the quarantine and return to training and matches faster.
The NFL has offered three testing options for a fully vaccinated individual to return provided they have not had symptoms for at least 24 hours. It is possible for an individual to return from quarantine as soon as a day after their initial positive test, according to updated protocols.
Prior to the update, fully vaccinated individuals had to re-test two negative tests 24 hours apart to be activated from the Reserve/Covid-19 list.
Fully vaccinated individuals will continue to test weekly and daily unvaccinated individuals.
NFL officials said in a statement that its protocols have evolved and that the new protocols reflect the league’s increased cases and the emergence of the new Omicron variant.
On Wednesday, Dr. Allen Sales, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said that some NFL players who tested positive for coronavirus had the surrogate. He also said that two-thirds of the players who tested positive did not show symptoms and some had mild symptoms “that may not make them seek a test under normal circumstances.”
On December 2, the league said 94.4% of its players had been fully vaccinated along with “nearly 100%” of other NFL personnel. The NFL, like other sports leagues, does not require players to be vaccinated.
“I think everyone is totally focused on how we keep ourselves safe, and how we do it in the best possible way,” Goodell said. “Dr. Sales has been consistent, as have the NFLPA medical experts and our independent experts, the best way to do this is with vaccines and boosters. This is not a fully-proven mechanism, but it is certainly the best way to do it.”
The NFL said earlier this week that coaches and staff with contact with players should receive a booster dose by December 27.
CNN’s Jacob Leaf contributed to this report.
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