NFL officials see drastic increase in COVID-19 cases in past two weeks

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country and within professional sports leagues, there is one group that has apparently been left out of conversations about the positive cases: officials.

According to Illustrated sportsAlbert Breer, NFL referees are required to take take-out tests every Monday and PCR test results are returned on Tuesday, determining availability for the next weekend games. Only three officials tested positive until week 12, Thanksgiving weekend.

Since then, COVID-19 cases have increased dramatically as the omicron variant spread rapidly in the United States, and in the last two rounds of testing on December 20 and 27, Breer said 18 officials had tested positive, which forced some referees Thursday night to fill in the Sunday slots.

Unlike the NBA, there is no minor league that the NFL can draw from. However, there are 17 crews, allowing for flexibility with an extra crew for the grueling final two weeks of the NFL regular season.

Officials teams within the NFL typically consist of seven referees in order to keep an eye on each receiver, but they are trained to function as a team of six if they are down on referee, whether it be for injury, illness or the like. But as Breer detailed in Friday’s edition of GamePlan, problems can arise, even when teams are down for a referee.

At the start of this week, things looked relatively positive as players were activated after their stints on the COVID-19 / Reserve roster, filling the rosters. But then things went downhill quickly as dozens more were put into protocols.

More than 100 players have already landed on the COVID-19 / Reserve roster ahead of Week 17 games, and 96 positive tests were returned on Monday – a new single-day record, by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Thirty-three players tested positive on Thursday, according to Pelissero, painting an even darker picture for the remainder of the season.

The league announced on Tuesday in a note to the clubs that it will adopt new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include quarantining COVID-19 positive individuals for five days after testing positive. Previously, the guideline was 10 days, which the NFL followed. Now, players join their respective teams faster.

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