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What NFL’s Game Plan Can Teach America About Handling COVID-19

2021-02-02 06:00:48

With just days to go before the Super Bowl, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) applaud the National Football League (NFL) for its COVID-19 mitigation strategy,

The CDC has published a paper jointly written by the CDC and NFL and the medical experts and epidemiologists at the NFL Players Association. The publication shares the benefits of the NFL's COVID-19 mitigation strategy, with elements that the CDC paper says could be widely applicable across society to limit the spread of the virus, including "in settings such as long-term care facilities, schools, and high-density environments."

The strategy of the sports league has provided important data and influenced the thinking of CDC.

The NFL, through its season-long, robust testing and contact tracking programs, found that transmission of the virus occurred in less than 15 minutes of cumulative interaction between individuals, the time frame initially used in the definition of "close contact". # 39; by the CDC. Evidence generated by the NFL data led to a revised definition of high-risk contacts that prompted contact tracers and medical experts to consider information beyond duration and distance, such as masking and ventilation.

The NFL data also led to a mid-season launch of the & # 39; Intensive Protocol & # 39; of the NFL, imposed a stricter set of virus prevention measures at an NFL club in response to a positive cause and eventually passed by all clubs. The NFL consists of 32 member clubs in 24 states.

The new definition of high-risk contact, used in the NFL and derived from the NFL's findings, includes “assessment of the use of face masks (eg, medical mask versus cloth face covering, correct mask use for both infected person and contact, and the remove the mask to eat or drink) and adjustment and ventilation (e.g. outside, inside high volume, inside low volume and during transport). "

The CDC says these criteria were used to effectively identify and quarantine any person exposed to an infected person in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

Along with continuous evaluation of the evidence throughout the season, the NFL's new definition of high-risk contact and implementation of the NFL's Intensive Protocol reduced high-risk contacts, continuously improved mitigation measures, and prevented the spread of the virus within the NFL environment , according to the joint paper.

The lessons from the NFL season apply to non-athletic settings, such as essential workplaces, long-term care facilities and schools, the publication said.

"Working with the CDC to share findings from our season with the public health community is important to society as other workplaces, institutions and organizations look for effective strategies to reduce the risk of the virus," said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer. officer and a co-author of the paper

The publication cites 20 individuals from October 15 to November 21 who were identified as high-risk contacts and later turned positive cases. To date, that number has increased from 20 to 37 people. The definition of high-risk contact and its protocols enabled identification and proactive quarantine of those 37 individuals in the early days of their infection.

The Intensive Protocol, which has evolved throughout the NFL season based on continuous analysis of testing and contact tracking data, is considered "an effective risk mitigation measure" in the publication. In 71% of the cases where the infected person's club was subject to those stricter measures, no risky contacts were identified. Furthermore, the Intensive Protocol reduced close contacts by 60% between October 1 and November 21, when 29 of the 32 clubs spent 431 days under the Intensive Protocol.

The NFL's Intensive Protocol only includes virtual meetings; limited outdoor gatherings; increased physical distance; wear mask at all times, including for players during training; and eliminating group meals.

The competition started on October 1, 2020 with the implementation of the Intensive Protocol for any club with a COVID-19 positive case and the recent opponent if exposed during a match. Beginning November 21, 2020, it was made mandatory at the end of the season to adopt the Intensive Protocol across the competition in recognition of its benefits in preventing COVID-19 spread.

In the NFL, COVID-19 transmission was identified in subjects with less than 15 minutes of consecutive or cumulative interaction and was reduced by the implementation of an intensive protocol targeting environmental change, increased personal protection, avoiding risky interactions such as sharing, eating in the same room or common areas, and expanding contact tracking components to include risky contact indications, ”the publication concludes.

CDC notes that the protocols implemented by the NFL are "labor intensive" were, certain strategies, such as taking into account the specifics of the close contact, in addition to time and duration, and creating an intensive protocol 'apply to other settings, including essential workplaces, long-term care facilities and schools. . "

The research paper, which is available to the public, is entitled "Implementation and evolution of mitigation measures, testing and tracing of contacts in the National Football League, August 9 – November 21, 2020. "

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