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NFL has 77 false positive COVID-19 results from 11 teams — all from the same lab

Unreliable results

Covid-19 reminders abound as the Los Angeles Chargers conduct practice at the Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa on Aug. 17. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Positive COVID-19 tests from 11 teams, all of which were tested in the same New Jersey lab, were ruled to be false positives upon reexamination, according to the Associated Press.

In total, 77 positive tests from a New Jersey lab called BioReference turned out to be false. The initial positives had led teams to cancel or delay practices, and isolate some players to prevent further spread.

The Minnesota Vikings had the most false positives with 12, followed by the New York Jets with 10, and the Chicago Bears with nine. Before the 77 false positives, there had only been four confirmed positive tests for players at training camp.

How did this happen?

The lab claims an isolated contamination caused the false positive results, and says that the issue has been corrected.

"On August 22, BioReference Laboratories reported an elevated number of positive COVID-19 PCR test results for NFL players and personnel at multiple clubs," Dr. Jon R. Cohen, executive chairman of BioReference, said in a statement. "The NFL immediately took necessary actions to ensure the safety of the players and personnel. Our investigation indicated that these were most likely false positive results, caused by an isolated contamination during test preparation in the New Jersey laboratory. Reagents, analyzers and staff were all ruled out as possible causes and subsequent testing has indicated that the issue has been resolved. All individuals impacted have been confirmed negative and informed."

What happens now?

Although the news of false positives is good for players and teams, it still causes a significant disruption. Once players test positive, even if it is a false positive, they cannot reenter team facilities until they have taken two more tests and received negative results on both.

The NFL's COVID-19 policy is still in development as the season approaches. Right now, teams are doing daily testing, but that could change after Sept. 5, depending on what the league decides.

For teams, the false positives were somewhat of a trial run of their protocols, although Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski didn't necessarily appreciate the test. He was listed among the false positives, and wasn't able to lead Sunday's practice. He had to stay away from the team's practice facility.

"It wasn't fun," Stefanski said, according to USA Today. "I can laugh about it now, but truly it wasn't fun to have that phone call very early in the morning and not get the news that it was potentially an error until later. It's something I take seriously, and our whole goal with our players and our staff is to keep everybody safe."

One last thing…
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