Citing recent decline in the "prevalence and severity of COVID-19," on Thursday the NFL and the NFL Players Association are halting all aspects of their joint COVID-19 protocols.
The change means that there are no more requirements for masks, tracking devices, surveillance testing or capacity limits, unless they are required by state or local laws.
"Based on current 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, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to suspend all aspects of the joint COVID-19 Protocols," the league memo read. "We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of players, coaches and staff, as we have throughout the pandemic."
The memo also advised teams to remain "in compliance with state and local law," adding that they're free to continue reasonable measures to protect staff and players.
NFL.com reported that the protocols to be lifted include:
- Mandatory surveillance testing of players or staff, regardless of vaccination status. However, teams will be "expected to identify a space inside the club facility to accommodate at least 10 Mesa docks" for anyone who reports symptoms.
- Players and staff are no longer mandated to wear Kinexon (tracking) devices.
- Regardless of vaccination status, players and staff are not required to wear masks or face coverings.
ESPN.com reported that the NFL had canceled its 2020 offseason training and preseason because of the pandemic, but the league has played all regular-season and playoff games since. A total of eight games were rescheduled. The full slate included an expansion of the postseason in 2020 and the regular season in 2021.
The NFL finished the 2021 season with vaccination rates of 95% for players and nearly 100% for other football staff members. There were four known hospitalizations among players, coaches and on-field officials for COVID-19 between the start of training camp in 2020 and the end of the 2021 season.
In some cases, the NFL's work on COVID-19 informed decisions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health institutions, ESPN.com reported.
Going forward, per the memo: "All individuals must continue to monitor themselves for symptoms on a daily basis prior to entering the club facility."
If an individual experiences COVID-19 symptoms, they're expected to report them to the club medical staff and will need a negative test to return to the club facility. Players or staff who test positive must isolate for five days after a positive test, according to ESPN.com.