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NFL bringing more staff back to HQ with saliva virus tests

By ARNIE STAPLETON

AP Pro Football Writer

The NFL is preparing to return most of its employees to team headquarters in Midtown Manhattan later this month and staffers going back to the office will have to take saliva COVID-19 tests every two weeks.

No more than half of the 780-member staff will be allowed to work on any given day at 345 Park Avenue, said Dasha Smith, the NFL's Chief People Officer.

In a staff memo obtained by The Associated Press, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday wrote, "With our players and clubs safely back in the workplace, we too must continue to advance our return to the workplace. This will ensure we are collectively in the best position to execute our season."

The Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to kick off the season Sept. 10.

That will mark the first game since KC's Super Bowl win over the 49ers in February because all preseason games this month were scuttled following an offseason conducted remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith said the league also is providing a transportation subsidy for employees so they can drive themselves or use a ride-sharing service "if they feel uncomfortable coming to work on public transportation."

Approximately 150 staff members returned to work for at least one day a week when the NFL reopened its headquarters on June 22 following a three-month lock-down.

Smith said she expected the Phase 2 reopening to commence on Aug. 17 or Aug. 25 but stressed that returning to the office isn't a requirement for any employee.

She said staffers with underlying health concerns or family members with a comorbidity will be allowed to continue working from home. So will anyone with child-care challenges, she said.

"We're doing a person-by-person consultation just to ensure that we are meeting the needs of each of our employees," Smith said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will decide this week on whether to allow schools to open next month. If employees have to keep their kids home for remote learning "we will be extremely flexible with those employees," Smith said.

"We are really approaching this in a compassionate and understanding way," Smith said, "really making sure that we are taking into account all of the personal situations that our employees are experiencing and dealing with."

The NFL's satellite offices in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, and Culver City, California, were reopened earlier this summer for production staffers who were subject to the same protocols put in place in Manhattan such as temperature checks, social distancing and mask requirements in common areas.

The COVID-19 saliva tests, which are also required of any NFL employee who returns from a business flight, produce results within 72 hours.

A positive test would trigger a quarantine order and contract tracing procedures. Any employee who registers a reading of 101.4 degrees or higher also will be prohibited from entering team headquarters.

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Updated August 5, 2020

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