Results From A Test-to-release From Isolation Strategy Among Fully Vaccinated National Football League Players And Staff Members With Covid-19 — United States, December 14–19, 2021

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MMWR Recommendations and Reports


During December 2021, the United States experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases, coinciding with predominance of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant (1). During this surge, the National Football League (NFL) and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) adjusted their protocols for test-to-release from COVID-19 isolation on December 16, 2021, based on analytic assessments of their 2021 test-to-release data. Fully vaccinated* persons with COVID-19 were permitted to return to work once they were asymptomatic or fever-free and experiencing improving symptoms for ≥24 hours, and after two negative or high cycle-threshold (Ct) results (Ct≥35) from either of two reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests† (2). This report describes data from NFL’s SARS-CoV-2 testing program (3) and time to first negative or Ct≥35 result based on serial COVID-19 patient testing during isolation. Among this occupational cohort of 173 fully vaccinated adults with confirmed COVID-19 during December 14–19, 2021, a period of Omicron variant predominance, 46% received negative test results or had a subsequent RT-PCR test result with a Ct≥35 by day 6 postdiagnosis (i.e., concluding 5 days of isolation) and 84% before day 10. The proportion of persons with positive test results decreased with time, with approximately one half receiving positive RT-PCR test results after postdiagnosis day 5. Although this test result does not necessarily mean these persons are infectious (RT-PCR tests might continue to return positive results long after an initial positive result) (4), these findings indicate that persons with COVID-19 should continue taking precautions, including correct and consistent mask use, for a full 10 days after symptom onset or initial positive test result if they are asymptomatic

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