June 18, 2021
A year after implementing significant restrictions for an abbreviated offseason program due to the covid-19 pandemic, the NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to new protocols for 2021. The updated protocols significantly loosen restrictions on those who have been fully vaccinated for the virus during training camp and preseason games. As NFL memos indicate, the protocols will affect everyone from players to media members. Fully vaccinated players will no longer be required to undergo daily covid tests or wear masks or face coverings at team facilities or during travel and will be tested once every two weeks. Vaccinated personnel are allowed to forgo social distancing and are not required to quarantine after high-risk exposure to the virus. Finally, vaccinated players, coaches and staff will not be confined to a certain meeting capacity and will be free of gathering restrictions outside team facilities.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there has been a debate concerning receiving the vaccine or waiting until we achieve herd immunity. The real difficulty with waiting for herd immunity is the number of persons who will die before we achieve that threshold (600,000+ and counting). Herd immunity describes a situation where a large part of a population is immune to a particular disease due to vaccination or previously contracting the illness and developing anti-bodies. This indirectly helps ensure protection of the remaining population and offers a higher chance of reducing transmission. Herd immunity ensures that while not everyone is immune to the disease, everyone can enjoy a level of protection from it. A higher number of immune people results in a lower risk of contracting the virus for everyone. Other protocols need to be followed to reduce transmission until the level of immunity is met. While it is difficult for certain segments of the population to get the vaccine, there are those who are willing to put others at risk by choosing to not get the vaccine.
In the NFL, those who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to follow protocols like those in 2020. This includes daily testing, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing. They are not allowed to eat meals with teammates, cannot participate in media marketing while traveling, are not allowed to use the sauna or steam room, and may not leave the team hotel or interact with people outside the team while traveling. While several players have expressed concern about getting the vaccine, the updated protocols provide more incentive to receive one. Players can be fined up to $50,000 for violations.
Thoughts: Most conversations about getting the vaccine revolve around choice. I am a huge proponent of giving people the right to choose what can happen to their own body. However, what some refuse to acknowledge is the choices we make come with consequences. The NFL is not requiring players or personnel to receive the vaccine. If they chose not to do so, there are different protocols they are also choosing to follow. The same should apply for the general population. You have a choice to get the vaccine or follow a different set of protocols to keep others safe. This does not require vaccination, but it should mean your decision will result in a different set of protocols you will need to follow. It is your choice. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.