The NFL and the Players Association became the first American professional sports league to drop all COVID-19 protocols.
The league announced that effective immediately, all masking, testing, and social distancing protocols would be suspended for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020.
On Thursday, all 32 teams learned that social distancing, masking, testing, capacity limits, and tracking devices would no longer be required by the league, due to declining infection rates.
“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 memo read.
Among the changes, mandatory surveillance testing of players and staff, regardless of the vaccination status, will no longer be required.
Testing will only happen when it’s recommended by the Club physician and on-site testing trailers will be removed. However, teams will be required to provide a testing space inside their facilities to test symptomatic players.
“We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of players, coaches and staff, as we have throughout the pandemic,” the memo noted.
Players will gain new freedoms, including their privacy, as the use of Kinexon devices, which they were forced to wear for contact tracing, will be discontinued. Social distancing and capacity limits in team facilities and weight rooms will no longer be enforced.
Masking mandates have also been dropped, regardless of vaccination status, though local requirements and guidelines may keep some players covered up.
The change will come as a relief to unvaccinated Bills’ star Cole Beasley, who was charged $14,600 after being caught without a mask at Buffalo’s training facility in August. He reportedly racked up around $100,000 in fines for violating the NFL’s pandemic protocols in 2021.
Team members will still be required to regularly monitor themselves for symptoms, report them to the club’s medical staff, and receive a negative test to re-enter the facility. Any player who tests positive must isolate for five days.