Covid is Spreading Rapidly in Pro Sports
Updated: Dec 17, 2021
642 days after the sports world was shocked when leagues began to postpone their season due to Covid-19, the virus is spreading rapidly across major sports leagues. With the recent arrival of the Omicron variant, which is spreading far quicker than other variants and is more resistant to vaccines, as well as the rampant Delta variant, multiple leagues have been forced to postpone games and shut down facilities.
Most cases among the athletes, especially the vaccinated, have been mild or asymptomatic but something to keep in mind is that they are tested constantly, making it easier to find positive cases and they are in very closer proximity to each other, making spreading more likely.
Over the past week over 90 NFL players have tested positive for Covid including a record 40 players added to the reserve list on Tuesday. Most recently, Browns QB Baker Mayfield tested positive yesterday morning which adds to a growing list. High profile players include Mayfield, Rams' Odell Beckham Jr, Rams' Jalen Ramsey, Saints' Cameron Jordan, and Saints' Mark Ingram.
Just 7 teams are without a player on the Covid Reserve list and that list does not include the Titans. They placed WR Dez Fitzpatrick on the list on Tuesday.
Just before the Rams Monday Night matchup against the Cardinals, Corner Jalen Ramsey as well as a few others were ruled out due to Covid and since then, the Rams have been forced to shut their facility.
Today, the NFL released a statement stating that they would be updating their guidelines to "address the increase in cases and the advent of the Omicron variant". They will require masks regardless of vaccination status, remote or outdoor meetings, no in-person meals, and no outside visitors while the team is traveling.
A major topic before the season, the league announced in August that if a game could not go on due to a Covid outbreak caused by unvaccinated players, that team would be required to forfeit.
Update 12/17/21: The Washington Football Team and Browns both have their top 2 Quarterbacks on the Covid list: Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen for Washington and Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum for Cleveland. Washington has Garret Gilbert, Vandy Alumni Kyler Shurmer, and Jordan Ta'amu available as of now and are not expected to name a starter until Sunday. This brings the Browns total to 20 and leaves them with Nick Mullens at Quarterback.
Update 12/17/21 2:00pm: The NFL has postponed Raiders at Browns, Seahawks at Rams, and Washington at Eagles. Raiders at Browns will now take place at 4:00pm CT on Monday, creating a MNF double header alongside the Vikings at Bears game at 7:20pm. Seahawks at Rams and Washington at Eagles are expected to take place on Tuesday. This is similar to the Titans situation in 2020 which caused one postponement and a Tuesday night football game.
The NHL and NHLPA were forced to meet on Wednesday to enhanced protocols: daily testing opposed to every third day, required masks in facilities, virtual meetings, and everyone is asked to limit all social gatherings.
Over 24 players across the league have been placed on the Covid-19 protocol list this week, increasing the season total to 130. The league has just one unvaccinated player, Red Wings Forward Tyler Bertuzzi, who tested positive two weeks ago.
After the Predators had their Tuesday night matchup against the flames postponed due to an outbreak among the Flames organization, the team announced positive tests of their own. The Flames placed 16 players and their head coach in Covid-19 protocols and the Predators placed 12 players and 4 coaches on the list.
Now, the Predators entire coaching staff is unavailable. It is expected that Milwaukee Admiral's coaches Karl Taylor and Scott Ford will take the reign tonight against Colorado.
The team recalled Cody Glass, Rocco Grimaldi, Mathieu Olivier, and Cole Smith to fill the absences and as of now, the game is set to go on.
Update 12/17/21: After the Canadiens played Thursday's game without fans for the first time this season, the league postponed their Saturday game against the Bruins after Boston reported 9 positive cases.
Another things to consider: In the leagues most recent CBA, the NHLPA agreed to allow NHL players to play in the Olympics which are now just 50 days away. With China's strict rules including a 3 week quarantine period for unvaccinated athletes, some players are unsure about their decision to travel to Bejing in February.
Predators' Nick Cousins, who was placed on the Covid list this morning, is understandably upset by the situation:
The NBA and NBAPA have been discussing modifications to its health and safety protocols. This week, the league saw its first confirmed case of the Omicron variant and have had 43 players enter health and safety protocols in the past two weeks; despite the season total being just 60.
Multiple teams, such as the Kings and Bulls, have had over 10 cases and the Bulls have been forced to cancel games as the Kings will likely have to do in the coming days. Additionally, the Nets have 8 positives which include Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Update: 3:30pm Thursday- Lakers' Russel Westbrook has entered health and safety protocols.
The league also announced that they will require players to get the booster shot by Friday or be subject to daily testing. Some high profile players, namely Kyrie Irving, have been sitting out this season because of their decision not to get vaccinated.
The English Premiere League is the league hardest hit by the recent outbreak. Over the last week, the league has been forced to postpone 9 matches which include teams like Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, and Leicester City.
Currently, clubs are pushing to delay the season until 2022 to allow numbers to get under control. 42 cases were reported on Monday alone, the highest figure since May of 2020. The league has instructed teams to reinstate 'emergency measures' like masks and social distancing.
Major League Soccer
While the MLS season ended last week, the league was still impacted by the recent spread of Covid. Most notably, the New England Revolution had 8 starting players placed on the Covid reserve list the day before their Eastern Conference Final match against the eventual champions, NYCFC.
We are seeing Covid numbers not seen since 2020 and to say the least, it is concerning.