The NFL has reached a vaccination rate of nearly 93 percent among its players and above 99 percent among staff members, according to NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills, who spoke Thursday on a media teleconference after clubs had been collectively briefed on the league's latest findings on COVID-19.
According to Sills, there were 68 positive results among 7,190 tests for the virus between Aug. 1 to Aug. 21, for a positivity rate of 0.95 percent. Vaccinated players tested positive at a rate of 0.3 percent, while unvaccinated players tested positive at a rate seven times higher (2.2 percent), Sills added.
"I feel we are in a much better place than we were last year at this time (because) we have a much more complete understanding of this virus and its transmission, and the testing and identification of it," Sills said.
NFL general counsel Larry Ferazani said the league has proposed to the NFL Players Association that vaccinated players be tested once a week rather than biweekly, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The union's preference is for daily testing. Ferazani added that the NFL has been pushing for mandatory vaccinations for players. About 200 players leaguewide remain unvaccinated.
"We would still love to see that mandate go into effect tomorrow," Ferazani said, per Pelissero.
Nearly all positive cases in the NFL have been the virus' Delta variant, and Sills noted that vaccinated individuals testing positive have largely experienced milder symptoms with shorter duration.
"Our challenge right now, and something we discussed with the ownership, is certainly that we are in a major surge," Sills said. "It is no secret … what the impact of the Delta variant is having. It is a very different disease in many ways. Different in the symptom profile it causes, particularly in vaccinated individuals. Different in its transmissibility and its spread. But despite those differences, we know that the mitigation measures are the same."
NFL chief football administrative officer Dawn Aponte said while there isn't a vaccine mandate for officials, they are unionized and must follow similar protocols to players based on their vaccination status.
The NFL continues to maintain the expectation of full-capacity stadiums at games this fall.