Dec 28 update, 5:54 p.m.: The NFL announced new return requirements, which will allow any player to return as soon as five days after a positive test.
Memo to NFL teams a short while ago stating players are eligible to return five days from when a positive test was collected. So for #Colts QB Carson Wentz (and any player who tested positive yesterday or before), that means he can be cleared as soon as Saturday. pic.twitter.com/niFRQRc5Zn— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) December 28, 2021
Dec 28 update, 3:04 p.m.: The NFL and NFLPA are negotiating to adopt the new CDC guidelines that would reduce the quarantine time to five days from 10 days for all players who test positive but are asymptomatic, per Adam Schefter. This covers both vaccinated and unvaccinated players.
The National Football League has been overrun by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the month of December, as there have been over 400 positive tests, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. In all of the 2021 season, there were 262 player positives. But there may be some relief on the way in the form of shorter quarantine periods for those who test positive.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for isolation and quarantine periods for the general population for COVID-19.
Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.
These new guidelines will more than likely be taken into consideration by the NFL, who already revised their guidelines recently to limit the amount of time vaccinated players who test positive are out. Those new protocols also took into account the Omicron variant, giving players who don’t show symptoms much more leeway in testing, while making it easier to return to the field with a single negative test.
The big change is how this could impact unvaccinated players. The league’s protocols require an unvaccinated player who tests positive quarantine for ten days. This opens the door to the league cutting that in half. As we get into the playoffs, when the NFL very much will want as many star players on the field as possible, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the league push to lighten the restrictions even more and now they have backing from the CDC.