NFL's COVID-19 testing protocols adjusted to minimize false positives

The NFL and NFL Players Association have tweaked COVID-19 protocols to minimize the chance that an individual could miss a game because of a false-positive test result, according to a memo distributed to teams Monday.

An initial positive test will continue to be followed by two more tests, a nasal swab to be assessed in a lab as well as a point-of-care test. Players, coaches and other staff members whose initial test results are positive must still isolate from the team while awaiting the additional test results. But they now can be cleared on the same day if both test results immediately come back negative.

Previously, the individual was required to isolate from the team for at least 24 hours. That time frame drew concern two weeks ago after a BioReference lab in New Jersey returned 77 false-positive results from 11 teams late on a Saturday night. Had that happened during the regular season, none of the players involved would have had enough time to clear isolation before a typical Sunday afternoon kickoff.

The league and union are finalizing plans for its regular-season testing policy. Its current protocol of daily testing for all players expires on Sept. 5.