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NFL revises COVID restrictions and return-to-play protocols as cases spread through league

The NFL made big changes to the league's COVID-19 protocols on Thursday, tightening virus-era restrictions to tame outbreaks while simultaneously revising return-to-play guidelines so vaccinated players can get back to work faster, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Similar to last season, masks are now required regardless of vaccination status, as are remote or outdoor meetings, writes The Associated Press. The league will also re-impose grab-and-go meals in team cafeterias and limits on the number of people allowed in weight rooms, per ESPN. Going out or having visitors while traveling for games is now prohibited, as well.

Simultaneously, the new league protocols relax a current rule requiring vaccinated players who test positive for COVID-19 to produce two negative tests 24 hours apart before returning to play. This will, the league hopes, help teams decimated by outbreaks — like the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams — get players back faster, writes ESPN. There is no change in rules for unvaccinated players, "who will continue to be tested daily and must stay away from the team facility for at least 10 days before they can be cleared to return after a positive test."

"Finally, and based on expert advice, we will adjust the return-to-participation requirements for those who have recovered from COVID-19," the NFL said in a statement. "All of these changes are grounded in our data and science-backed approach, with safety our No. 1 goal for the entire NFL community." Read more at The Wall Street Journal.