The Atlanta Falcons became the latest NFL team to deal with a shutdown of their facility because of issues with the novel coronavirus.

The Falcons’ facility was closed after they had a positive test for the coronavirus in results returned Thursday morning, according to the team. The positive test was by a member of the coaching staff, according to a person familiar with the results.

The Falcons said they were working remotely Thursday. There was no immediate change to the status of their game scheduled for Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

“We’ll obviously continue to monitor that situation very carefully,” Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon.

The team was given the option to reopen its facility Thursday afternoon, according to a person familiar with the situation, but decided to continue remote operations all day. The Falcons’ facility could reopen Friday, barring further positive test results.

“This decision was made in consultation with the NFL and medical officials,” the Falcons said in a written statement earlier Thursday. “The health and safety of our team is our highest priority.”

The Falcons were in their facility and practiced Wednesday after placing rookie defensive lineman Marlon Davidson on their COVID-19 reserve list Tuesday, reportedly after he tested positive.

The Carolina Panthers, who faced the Falcons last Sunday in Atlanta, announced Wednesday that they were operating under enhanced protocols established by the league for either a team with coronavirus cases or a team exposed to cases. Sills said those intensive protocols have applied to about 10 NFL teams thus far.

The NFL has allowed teams in some instances to play games after a small number of positive tests without signs, through contact-tracing data, of extensive spread of the virus.

“Not all cases are the same when we do have a single positive . . .. Every one of these cases is different,” Sills said. “We have to judge the merits of what’s going on based on the totality of the information we have . . .. What we’re really trying to determine is: What do we think is the risk of ongoing transmission?”

The NFL has rescheduled a series of games over the past two weekends while dealing with a coronavirus outbreak on the Tennessee Titans and positive tests involving other teams. The Titans have had 24 members of the organization, including 13 players, test positive since Sept. 24. They beat the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday night in Nashville in a rescheduled game. It was the Titans’ first game since Sept. 27, and it was only the second NFL game in 74 years to be played on a Tuesday.

The New England Patriots are to play the Denver Broncos this Sunday in Foxborough, Mass., after that game was postponed from last Sunday.

Sills said the league has seen “no evidence of on-field transmission from football-related activities” in the Tennessee and New England situations but has seen the importance of mask-wearing and the risk of in-person team meetings underscored. Meanwhile, Sills said the NFL expects that, with flu season at hand, it will withhold more players, coaches and staffers from practices and games for displaying symptoms even if that’s accompanied by a negative coronavirus test.

“We all know that we’re going into cold and flu season,” Sills said. “There’s going to be a lot more sore throats, stuffy noses, coughs that develop. And in today’s time and with the situation we’re in, we always have to rule out covid first in those situations. So when someone reports symptoms, even if they have a negative test that same day, we’re going to hold that individual out of the facility.”

The league and the NFL Players Association have made a “huge push,” Sills said, for all personnel to have flu vaccinations.

If there are further positive coronavirus tests and the Falcons-Vikings game ends up needing to be rescheduled, additional juggling of the schedule also would be required. The Falcons and Vikings do not have a common bye week. NFL officials said Tuesday they are considering adding an 18th week to the regular season to accommodate further rescheduled games but will do so only if they cannot play all games within the current framework of the schedule.


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