• Travis Hawkins

How Should The 49ers Address COVID-19?

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

An NFL offseason is rigorously scheduled, telling teams what days they can practice, and each practice is a meticulously planned event (at least for the teams with good coaches). Each movement of position groups through individual drills and team periods is planned down to the minute, but what happens when the truly unexpected happens?

The NFL announced on March 16 that it would indefinitely delay the offseason program due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, and now the state of California is under a shelter in place order until April 7. At this point no one knows when life will return to normal, but eventually the NFL will resume its offseason program, likely with some new strict cleaning procedures in place.

The NFL has had several occurrences of MRSA dating back to 2003, so this isn’t the first time they have faced an outbreak scenario. According to a 2013 story by the Boston Globe, “Dr. Deverick Anderson of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network said football players are 10-15 times more likely to contract MRSA than the general population” due to the locker room environment. The same environmental factors that make MRSA much more likely among NFL players could cause COVID-19 to spread like an unsubstantiated Twitter rumor.

With players going head-to-head (literally) on every play, sharing equipment and spending time in close proximity to one another, on the field, in the locker room, in the gym and on airplanes, the NFL lifestyle is ripe for community transmission.

Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 is spread person to person through respiratory droplets such as coughs and sneezes that make their way inside the nose or mouth. The CDC also says that it may be possible to contract the virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching one’s nose, mouth or eyes.

In order to help stop the spread of the virus, the CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily. For the 49ers, this would be a big undertaking. In order to be truly safe, they would need to disinfect the blocking sleds and balls between every rep with at least sixty percent alcohol and deep cleaning the gym and locker room at least once a day.

The virus can be spread by someone even if he is not showing symptoms so in an abundance of caution the team could require players to have their temperature taken before entering the facility each day in order to keep the risk of exposing players to a minimum. Any player who records a temperature of 100 degrees or higher would be placed into a quarantine to see if symptoms develop.

The strict measures that are being taken to combat the COVID-19 virus are out of an abundance of caution currently, but could become commonplace, especially in environments where the virus can spread so easily, like an NFL locker room.

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