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NFL COVID-19 Crisis Heats Up As Fans Near Return

T
he NFL has been forced to postpone two games, with 16 active COVID-19 cases currently confirmed around the league among staff and players, threatening the viability of the recently resumed competition.

New England Patriots quarterback, Cam Newton has been named as one of the players to test positive for COVID-19, after the NFL was forced to postpone the Patriots game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

This postponement comes after the NFL postponed the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers match earlier in the week after a confirmed positive case from the Titans.

In a statement, the league said the Patriots and Chiefs match would be rescheduled from Sunday afternoon to “Monday or Tuesday”, proving the NFL doesn’t have much wiggle room in its 17-week season for rescheduling matches at later dates.

“In consultation with infectious disease experts, both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the NFLPA (NFL Players’ Association) to evaluate multiple close contacts, perform additional testing, and monitor developments,” the NFL statement said.

“All decisions will be made with the health and safety of players, team and gameday personnel as our primary consideration,” the statement said.

In terms of biosecurity measures, the NFL players and coaches are tested daily and are required to wear face masks at practice facilities and when travelling to and from games, but are not isolated away from the general public in bubble systems similar to the NBA and NHL.

Despite the cluster of confirmed positive tests, the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium is set to become the first professional sports venue to use drones for cleaning, as the Falcons will allow a limited capacity of fans on October 11.

Announced in a partnership with Lucid Drone Technologies, the drones will sanitise key areas of the stadium after games, including the seating bowl, handrails, and glass partitions.

AMB Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Falcons and their home stadium, chief operating officer, Dietmar Exler, said the use of the drones will reduce time spent cleaning by 95% and will be 14 times more efficient than regular backpack foggers.

“The process of welcoming fans back involves actively listening and responding to their concerns and we understand that proper cleaning and sanitisation protocols are top of mind in the current environment,” Exler said.

“We have worked tirelessly to provide a safe environment for not only our associates, players, and staff, but especially our fans,” he said.

The drones will utilise electrostatic spraying nozzles to evenly distribute medical grade disinfecting chemicals, including an inhibitor that prevents harmful bacteria from sticking to surfaces without leaving a reside.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium has also added a sanitation team for hourly disinfecting, 600 hand sanitiser dispensers and monthly ‘anti-viral coating’ in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 with the re-introduction of fans to NFL venues.