The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has issued a report called “Implementation and Evolution of Mitigation Measures, Testing, and Contact Tracing in the National Football League, August 9–November 21, 2020”, which charts how the NFL coped with the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is interesting is that the research carried out by the teams found that within the sport the transmission of the virus occurred with only 15 minutes of interaction between individuals. The league’s research showed that there were four key factors which determined the spread of the disease: whether they were wearing masks, how well the room was ventilated, how long the interaction was for and the physical distance between the subjects.
The league conducted around 623,000 tests on 11,400 players and staff in the period studied and around three percent of these returned positive results.
This is interesting when compared to Formula 1’s figures, which saw 76,000 tests and only 78 confirmed cases, which works out at about 0.10 percent. The numbers are skewed somewhat by various different factors, including the fact that some of the teams carried out their own testing regimes and so were not included in the figures. If the overall figures have been tabulated the numbers have not been made public. The other difference, of course, is that the NFL was operating just in the United States, while F1 visited 12 different countries. The F1 tests often included local contractors and F1’s Ross Brawn said some time ago that “quite a number” of the positive tests came from the locals. Brawn also said that the worst outbreak was caused by a local translator who had been working with one of the teams.
F1 changed its testing protocols after the Eifel Grand Prix which meant that everyone had to test within 24 hours of their arrival, rather than having pre-event tests as had previously been the case. This followed Lance Stroll testing positive in Germany.
Even in the autumn Brawn said that it was curious that three of the 20 F1 drivers had tested positive, which he said was “disproportionate” and F1 was curious to know why this had happened. That number has now risen to five, which means that 25 percent of last year’s F1 drivers have tested positive.
Outbreaks within the teams were very low and the media (which was not allowed into the paddock) had only one case all season and that was a photographer who caught the disease in his home country but was only identified as being positive on arrival in Bahrain.
It is interesting that some of the most diligent people were the drivers, notably Lewis Hamilton, who limited all social activity until after he had won the World Championship. He tested positive after that had happened.
It is also interesting to note that the International Olympic Committee is looking to try to have all of the Olympic Games athletes vaccinated as soon as the high risk sectors and key workers have received jabs. Whether this would be possible for F1 is a question that will be being asked at the moment. Given that the season is supposed to kick off in March and there is not much time, it is unlikely that this would be a requirement as it would require government agreement in a string of different countries of those involved in F1, unless F1 could secure sufficient vaccine for those working in the business. Even then, it is not clear that all the countries with F1 races would accept people without testing, even if they had been vaccinated.