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Inside the protocol when an NFL player — like the Patriots' Cam Newton — tests positive for COVID-19

The NFL is taking many precautions in the fight against the pandemic, including mandating the use of masks by coaches.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Sunday’s Patriots-Chiefs game will be rescheduled after at least one player from both teams tested positive for coronavirus, the league announced Saturday.

A league source confirmed that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19. Multiple reports say Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu also tested positive.

So, what exactly happens when a team learns of a positive test?

According to the NFL, a player who tests positive is immediately isolated and removed from the team environment. He then must undergo two additional tests — a nasal swab and a point-of-care test — to verify his initial result. While awaiting the confirmatory results, the player must remain in isolation.


Once the positive case is confirmed, the player goes on the league’s COVID-IR list until he is cleared to return.

If the player exhibits symptoms, he can only return after at least 10 days have passed since he first experienced symptoms and at least 72 hours have passed since he last experienced symptoms. If the player is asymptomatic, he can return after 10 days have passed since his initial positive test or, if he produces two consecutive negative tests 24 hours apart, he can return after five days have passed.

In both situations, the team’s head physician must clear the player before returning.

While on the COVID-IR list, the player will still earn his full salary.

Using contact tracing — players are required to wear proximity trackers during team activities — the league and teams can determine who was in close contact with the player who tested positive. Those individuals will also be tested immediately.

According to the Patriots, the players, coaches, and staff who have been in close contact with Newton received point-of-care tests Saturday morning and all tested negative.

“We are in close consultation with the NFL, as well as our team of independent doctors and specialists, and will follow their guidance regarding our scheduled trip to Kansas City and game against the Chiefs,” the team said in a statement. “The health and safety of our team, as well as our opponent, are of highest priority.”


Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her @nicolecyang.