UPDATE: Practice is now back on for Sunday. See here for details. Original story is below.
The Cleveland Browns cancelled their Sunday practice after “irregularities” were found in the COVID-19 test results from Saturday that were all processed by the same lab in New Jersey.
The move came after the NFL released a statement about the testing irregularities:
Saturday’s daily COVID testing returned several positives tests from each of the clubs serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey. We are working with our testing partner, BioReference, to investigate these results, while the clubs work to confirm or rule out the positive tests. Clubs are taking immediate precautionary measures as outlined in the NFL-NFLPA’s health and safety protocols to include contact tracing, isolation of individuals and temporarily adjusting the schedule, where appropriate. The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results.
“After consistently receiving encouraging results from daily testing since returning to the facility in July, the Cleveland Browns’ COVID-19 testing process conducted yesterday initially indicates multiple individual presumptive positive cases that include players, coaches and support staff. Although, we have received indication from the NFL that there may be a potential lab error with these results that have impacted other clubs, out of an abundance of caution, we will immediately follow our comprehensive Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan and pause any activity in our building today. As per plan procedure, the team is also diligently reviewing proximity data for contact tracing and instructed self-isolation for those who tested positive and others as appropriate even though they all remain asymptomatic. Our facility is currently undergoing a thorough deep-cleaning and disinfecting process and is closed to all personnel for the day. We will provide updates as testing results are confirmed and more information is available.”
It is unclear when the Browns will be able to return to the team’s facility, according to Josina Anderson:
A #Browns source also just told me, "right now we don't know when we will be allowed back in the building." They're currently preparing from home, while waiting to find out when the team will possibly resume group virtual meetings or be allowed back to work in the facility.— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) August 23, 2020
The sudden spike in positive test results all coming from the same lab raised some questions in the league office, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
The NFL has conducted well over 100,000 COVID-19 tests since camp began with a positivity rate that's a fraction of 1% and dropping. A sudden flood of positives from different testing sites, all processed by the same lab, raises a red flag. https://t.co/UOuBGzL4LR— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 23, 2020
The Chicago Bears are also cancelling practice today after having nine players and staff members come back as having tested positive but that subsequently turned out to be false positives, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
The #Bears say they learned yesterday’s Covid-19 testing identified nine players/staff as positive. "We followed additional NFL-NFLPA testing protocol and confirmed all 9 results as false positives.” To be cautious, CHI postponed the morning practice to this afternoon at 1:30pm.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 23, 2020
While it is disappointing that teams have to cancel a practice session over what might turn out to be a mistake from the testing facility, it is understandable that they would rather be safe than sorry in a situation like this.