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NFL alters COVID-19 testing protocol after Matthew Stafford’s false positive

It didn’t take long for the NFL to make an adjustment to their COVID-testing policy.

NFL Draft Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NFL has made a pretty significant change to their COVID-19 testing process just a week after Matthew Stafford posted a false positive test, according to the Detroit Lions.

The issue with the process was that Stafford had received two negative tests in the days prior to his positive result and at least three more negative results in a span of a couple days. But as the protocol stood at the time, Stafford still had to be quarantined from the building for a minimum of five days. The NFL has now altered that policy that could result in a player returning to action just a day or two after a potential false positive test.

Of course, the tricky part is determining if a sample’s result is a false positive or not. Here’s what the NFL is doing to try and figure that out on a quicker timeline.

“If a player, Tier 1 or Tier 2 individual with no known history of COVID infection (as proved by a documented PCR test) receives a new positive test result and is asymptomatic then the following confirmatory tests shall be run on the day following the positive test result:

  • A Point of Care (POC) test; and
  • An rt-PCR test.

The tested individual must remain out of the facility and isolate at home until the confirmatory test results return. If both confirmatory test are negative, then the individual is not considered COVID positive and may resume all normal activities, including access to the facility.”

Depending on how long it takes for those two additional test results to come in, that means the time spent quarantined could drop from five days to just two. And while that may seem like a small difference, three extra days during an NFL work week could mean the difference between playing a game or missing it completely. Additionally, it does a relatively good job of keeping the clubhouse safe from an outbreak by making sure the player is still away from the team while they get a certain level of confidence that the positive test result was inaccurate.