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Over the weekend, 77 individuals from 11 NFL teams, including players, coaches and staff, tested positive for COVID-19.
The results led to altered practice schedules on Sunday, with affected players and coaches staying home and attending team meetings virtually, ESPN reported.
Then, the NFL retested the samples.
Retests of all 77 samples came back negative.
The NFL is currently testing its personnel daily using a firm called BioReference, which claimed the false positives were the result of an “isolated contamination” incident while the tests were being prepared.
BioReference uses five labs across the country to process the daily tests. All of the false positives came from a single lab in New Jersey.
The firm issued a statement on Monday.
“On August 22, BioReference Laboratories reported an elevated number of positive COVID-19 PCR test results for NFL players and personnel at multiple clubs. The NFL immediately took necessary actions to ensure the safety of the players and personnel,” the statement read.
“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.”
The positive test results caused some alarm across the NFL, which has so far enjoyed a low number of positive tests during training camp.
The testing error comes as sports leagues across the country attempt to determine whether the games can go on during the pandemic.
MLB opted for a truncated season but has canceled 37 games as of Saturday due to positive COVID-19 cases, according to CBS Sports. Both the NBA and the NHL have instituted “coronavirus bubbles” to limit exposure, and both leagues have managed to keep their case numbers low.
Meanwhile, incidents like this raise major red flags regarding coronavirus testing more generally. How many tests taken by regular Americans have resulted in false positives?
Then you have the states that add victims to their death tolls despite little to no evidence that coronavirus was the cause of death.
In April, New York added 3,700 victims to its coronavirus death toll in a single day despite the lack of positive tests among the deceased.
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It is particularly interesting that all of the NFL’s false positives came out of BioReference’s New Jersey lab. According to data from the New Jersey Department of Health, the state has seen over 190,000 positive coronavirus cases and over 14,000 deaths — the second-highest number of deaths in the country, after New York.
Lab errors like those affecting the NFL raise the question: How many of those 190,000 positive cases were true positives?
At this point, it is almost impossible to know the true number of coronavirus cases and fatalities.
Over six months into this pandemic, Americans should be able to rely on the data being presented, but time and again we see reports that suggest the data cannot be trusted.
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