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Q&A: NFL's Sills on league's response to the omicron variant

NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills spoke about the league's response to the highly contagious omicron variant and the "daunting challenge of finishing the season without being derailed" by it, according to a Q&A with Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. Below are excerpts from the Q&A, some of which have been edited for clarity and brevity.

On changes to the NFL's protocols amid the rise of omicron:
Sills
: We pivoted away from sort of a broad surveillance where we were testing unvaccinated people every day and vaccinated people once a week. We’ve done what we call a strategic and targeted program, where we’re still testing unvaccinated daily, but we’re no longer doing random surveillance testing. We’re targeting people with symptoms and asking them to come forward and be tested. I think that that has been a big success.

On returning players to games after a positive test:
Sills
: We're allowing people to come back after five days if they have no symptoms and are cleared by their team physician, which does involve an in-person evaluation. In the NFL, we’re actually seeing our caseload go down.

On lessons learned from last season:
Sills
: The biggest one was that at the end of all of it, it really wasn’t the testing that kept us safe. What allowed us to be safe last season and to avoid spread of disease were the other mitigation measures. It was about the use of masks, virtual meetings, well-ventilated spaces. ... We saw a very low rate of cardiac complications. That would be something that if you go back to March of 2020 when this all started everyone was very concerned about that because we just didn’t know. Our data was reassuring on that point. The last thing from last season is we did not see outdoor, on-the-field transmission. We didn’t see the virus cross the line of scrimmage. I think those were important scientific lessons.

On getting through the playoffs and Super Bowl without interruptions:
Sills: I remain guardedly optimistic. I believe that we have a solid plan in place and we’ve shown that we can adapt and adjust as the data leads us (L.A. TIMES, 1/15).

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