After roughly two months of successful COVID-19 mitigation the NFL has its first major incident, and the Minnesota Vikings are in the middle of it.
The Tennessee Titans, who beat the Vikings 31-30 on Sunday, reported positive COVID-19 tests for three players and five staff members Tuesday, including defensive playcaller Shane Bowen, who was not at Sunday’s game but had received a positive test the day before.
While the Vikings have not reported any positive tests as of Tuesday morning, the team announced in a statement it would be closing TCO Performance Center as a precaution.
“Today the NFL notified us that members of the Tennessee Titans organization have tested positive for COVID-19. As of this morning, we have not received any positive results from Vikings testing following Sunday’s game. Per the NFL protocol, we will suspend in-person club activities and close TCO Performance Center immediately. We will work closely with the NFL and NFLPA to monitor the situation, perform additional testing and determine when the facility can reopen. We will provide further updates regarding this week’s football schedule when appropriate.”
Numerous NFL teams thought they had a COVID-19 outbreak in mid-August when one of the league’s labs returned an inordinate number of positive tests which were proven to be false positives. This incident, however, doesn’t appear to be an aberration. It’s unclear which Titans players have tested positive — information that will likely come out by Wednesday at the latest when the Titans will be forced to make roster moves.
League officials are currently sifting through contact tracing data to judge which Vikings and Titans players could be at risk based on their exposure. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports that 48 people may have come in close contact. Early protocols during training camp mandated that players with close contact would need to receive a negative test and then be subject to increased symptom monitoring and a more frequent testing cadence. Teams receive their test results after approximately 24 hours, so Tuesday’s tests should be reported Wednesday morning. But public health officials have said that individuals infected may not register a positive test for five to seven days. That’s why both organizations are proceeding with an abundance of caution.
Minnesota is scheduled to play at Houston Sunday afternoon with practices planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It’s possible at least one or more of those practices is canceled, forcing the Vikings to prepare virtually as they look to pick up their first win of the season.
The NFL is reportedly pushing to keep the Titans-Steelers game on track for Sunday or Monday at the latest, so the Vikings-Texans game will likely be played barring a large-scale breakout on the Vikings. A postponement would get complicated since the Texans and Vikings have different bye weeks.