COVID-19 testing isn’t perfect, and today the NFL is faced with the question of what to do if a sudden, sharp increase in positive tests seems more likely to be the result of a lab error than an actual outbreak.
The league reported today that one lab it uses reported many positive tests, while all the other labs the league uses reported no positive tests.
“Saturday’s daily COVID testing returned several positive tests from each of the clubs serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey,” the league said in a statement. “We are working with our testing partner, BioReference, to investigate these results, while the clubs work to confirm or rule out the positive tests. clubs are taking immediate precautionary measures as outlined in the NFL-NFLPA’s health and safety protocols to include contact tracing, isolation of individuals and temporarily adjusting the schedule, where appropriate. The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results.”
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was initially placed on the reserve/COVID-19 test over what he and the Lions later said was a false positive. This statement sounds like the league suspects it had many false positives. If a lab error like this happened during the regular season, it could result in many healthy players having to be sidelined, or games being canceled. It’s one of the many potential problems facing the league as it attempts to play a season in a pandemic.