NFL Chief Medical Officer 'Fully Expects' Positive COVID-19 Tests During Season

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 19, 2020

FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2019, file photo, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills gestures while speaking during a health and safety tour at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game in Atlanta. Next to torn ACLs, the most time lost for injured NFL players is due to hamstring and lower extremity problems, of which there are far more than the major knee issue.
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills told reporters in a conference call Tuesday that "we fully well expect" positive COVID-19 tests when the 2020 season begins.

Per ESPN's Kevin Seifert, Sills noted the goal is to identify those positive cases as soon as possible to prevent spreading the disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic will present unique challenges for the 2020 NFL season, as Dr. Anthony Fauci noted to NBC Sports' Peter King in an interview published on May 11.

When King asked what would happen if a group of players on the same team tested positive, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director said the following:

"You got a problem there. You know why? Because it is likely that if four of them are positive and they’ve been hanging around together, that the other ones that are negative are really positive. So I mean, if you have one outlier [only one player testing positive], I think you might get away. But once you wind up having a situation where it looks like it’s spread within a team, you got a real problem. You gotta shut it down."

By shut it down, King clarified that Fauci meant the team could not take the field for two weeks while quarantined. In addition, any player who tested positive for COVID-19 would also be out for two weeks.

However, Fauci also said that he believed it was "feasible that negative-testing players could play to an empty stadium."

That looks more likely in recent weeks, as a few governors (e.g. Florida' Ron DeSantis and Arizona's Doug Ducey) announced that their states would welcome all pro sports teams to play within their borders in stadiums without fans.

The NFL season is scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 10 when the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans. The rest of the Week 1 schedule is slated for Sunday, Sept. 13 and Monday, Sept. 14.