Wiedmer: NFL's false positives the last COVID-19 curveball we needed

AP photo by James P. McCoy / Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane, left, and team owner Terry Pegula watch practice at training camp on Thursday in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Because we're apparently not already dealing with enough uncertainty in our lives due to the coronavirus pandemic these days, the National Football League added a new worry Sunday.

It seems a New Jersey lab may have sent out an inordinate number of "positive" tests to various NFL teams that were later determined to be "false positives." According to an ESPN.com story, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane estimated at least 10 teams were affected.

Why is this important? In the grand scheme of life, it probably isn't. For anyone's health concerns, a false positive is a good thing. You're not sick when you thought you were. At least at that moment.

But if that false positive isn't quickly discovered, if it puts you on the shelf or in a lengthy quarantine, which, in the case of the NFL, could cost your team a game, it's a pretty big deal.

Or what if it happens to your son or daughter and they're kept home from school for two weeks, and you have to rearrange your schedule accordingly?

Or, worse yet, your parent or grandparent receives a false positive, he or she has preexisting conditions, and your loved one is subjected to a whole lot of unnecessary fear and stress until the mistake is discovered?

What then?

Or as the lead paragraph in the ESPN story read: "The NFL is working Sunday to assess a series of positive COVID-19 results that have all been traced to the same laboratory in New Jersey, raising concerns about the efficacy of the testing program established to minimize spread of the disease."

For everyone save the NBA and its Disney World bubble, it seems as if new concerns are raised every day in all places. Major League Baseball is still canceling games due to positive tests of players and staff members. If the NFL season began today, only three teams - Baltimore, Jacksonville and Kansas City - currently plan to have even roughly 20% capacity crowds for their first home games. A handful more - notably Dallas - hope to find a way to do the same.

But most NFL teams, including the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans, have already banned fans through September, with the likelihood of any attending games until November, at the earliest, a long shot.

photo AP photo by Bill Kostroun / New York Jets inside linebacker Avery Williamson takes a moment to himself before a home game against the Green Bay Packers in December 2018 in East Rutherford, N.J. Williamson expressed concerns regarding what a false positive test for the coronavirus could do to an NFL player and his team's season.

Nor is it just the NBA, MLB and pro golf practicing as much isolation as possible. Just this past week, the Kentucky Derby announced it would be held without fans, a week after Augusta National revealed the same decision regarding the Masters.

Then, as we all know, there remains much uncertainty about the high schools and colleges that are still attempting to play sports. Within the Southeastern Conference, for instance, several schools - including Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama - have announced plans to have up to 25-30% percent capacity at their football stadiums, with the reductions certain to do great damage to local economies. But perhaps not so much as in Lexington, where the University of Kentucky has yet to commit to any fans.

Tennessee high schools began play on Friday night with fans present, but as a reader pointed out to me on Sunday, this newspaper's photos of several stadiums showed at least a few people without masks, a definite no-no. Almost everyone has argued the wearing of masks is the best way to thwart the coronavirus.

Now, if the NFL is to be believed, you can falsely test positive, which means - according to league protocol and many other entities these days - you'll require two negatives to get back to the business of whatever you were doing before the positive tests.

As New York Jets linebacker Avery Williamson, a former Tennessee Titan and Kentucky Wildcat, noted in the article: "It's kind of crazy, you know, just thinking, what if that happens before a game or something? You just don't know what's going on. There's nothing you can really do."

We learned a long time ago, or at least we should have, that there doesn't seem much we can do to eradicate COVID-19. And that's not likely to change for months, if not years, without a vaccine that's 80-90% effective, which seems unlikely.

Even then, life is going to take a while to get back to what it used to be, if it ever does.

Merely consider what nightclub analyst Morgan Deane told Miami.com about how bars and nightclubs will likely look going forward. Masks will be required at all times unless you're actually sipping a drink. You'll have to book a spot in advance through your phone; no waiting in line. Drinks will be ordered by phone, and temperatures will be checked before entering. Social distancing will remain.

One other thing: Deane expects none of this to happen before 2022.

Said the Buffalo Bills' Beane as he discussed the NFL's false positive situation: "Probably better that this happened now than three weeks from now. But it seems like every few weeks, every week, something's going on, and so who knows what the next curveball will be?"

All we seem to know for sure is that wearing masks gives us a fighting chance. Unless, of course, that action somehow proves to be a false positive, too.

photo Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.