(Reuters) - Players exhibiting cold and flu symptoms will miss practice and games even if they test negative for COVID-19, NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills said on Thursday.
Sills said he expects symptoms such as coughs, sore throats and stuffy noses to ramp up as the U.S. approaches cold and flu season. He added that NFL teams need to err on the side of caution and, when in doubt, go with the most conservative approach.
“There are many illnesses other than COVID that can cause those symptoms but because there is so much overlap we always have to assume it could be COVID,” Sills told a conference call.
“And even if that individual has tested negative that same day we are going to send him home until we have a chance to run through all of those other tests.”
Sills said decisions on sending a player home will be made by the team’s medical staff and in consultation with the NFL’s infectious diseases experts and the league as a whole.
“Our goal is to make sure we don’t put someone on the field that we think might actively be infected,” said Sills. “If it turns out those were non-COVID symptoms then certainly we would all be happy with that outcome.”
While the NFL has shuffled its schedule to accommodate a rash of positive COVID-19 tests a little over a month into its 17-week regular season, Sills said the league has yet to find a case of on-field transmission of the virus.
Earlier on Thursday, the Atlanta Falcons shut down their practice facility after a new positive test for COVID-19 while the Cleveland Browns sent three-times Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. home from practice with an illness.
“Just like any game plan our game plan is only as good as the execution, so that’s what we are focusing on right now,” said Sills.
“If we can apply the appropriate mitigation strategies we can keep those cases isolated and we can keep it at the level of having a campfire and prevent it from turning in into a forest fire.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue and Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis
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