The Bears moved their morning practice to the afternoon Sunday after they said league testing produced nine positive tests among players and staff. The Bears said all nine have been proved to be false positives.
Coach Matt Nagy said after the afternoon practice that he received a phone call from head trainer Andre Tucker at 2:51 a.m. alerting him to numerous positive tests on the team. The Bears set about an action plan, bringing in the nine for further tests. They proved to be false positives — an issue that struck multiple teams around the NFL on Sunday.
“[Sunday] morning we learned yesterday’s Covid-19 testing identified nine players/staff as positive,” the team said in a statement. “We followed additional NFL-NFLPA testing protocol and confirmed all nine results as false positives. Out of an abundance of caution, we postponed this morning’s practice to this afternoon at 1:30pm.”
The NFL singled out the BioReference laboratory in New Jersey for irregular results, though the Bears have said they use a similar lab in Minnesota.
Monday, BioReference said in a statement that the positive results have since been confirmed negative, and blamed an “isolated contamination” for the mistake.
The Bears test their players daily and send the samples to a lab. For re-tests, they have the capability to administer tests and receive a result on-site in about a half-hour.
Multiple teams altered their morning practice schedules.
“Saturday’s daily COVID testing returned several positive tests from each of the clubs serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey,” the NFL said in a statement. “We are working with our testing partner, BioReference, to investigate these results, while the clubs work to confirm or rule out the positive tests.
“Clubs are taking immediate precautionary measures as outlined in the NFL-NFLPA’s health and safety protocols to include contact tracing, isolation of individuals and temporarily adjusting the schedule, where appropriate. The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results.”
By the end of the day Saturday, only four players were on the NFL’s Reserve/COVID-19 list. Multiple positive tests from each team that used the New Jersey lab, then, would signify either a massive spike in infection or a grand-scale testing irregularity.
The Bears’ practice time change from 9:20 a.m. came without advanced warning. Media members arriving at Halas Hall were turned away by security with no explanation, other than the schedule had been altered.
Nagy told coordinators and team leaders, who spread the word about the tests. At 9 a.m., he held a Zoom meeting with 140 participants to lay out the day’s schedule.
“This is definitely the year of the contingency plan,” he said.