Is there a safer American workplace than the NFL?

If, for just a day, I could join the White House staff as a senior advisor, I would urge the President of the United States to meet with whoever is overseeing the NFL’s COVID-19 program.

I didn’t see this tweet last week when it was written by Jay Busbee, Yahoo Sports senior writer. But I heard the same numbers discussed over the weekend in a pro football podcast. The numbers are incredible. If my math is accurate, that’s a positive test rate of 0.018 percent.

For perspective, the daily newspaper where I live publishes updated daily COVID-19 data for all counties in the region. Dubuque County, where I live, has an estimated population 97,311, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 26,618 COVID-19 tests had been done in the county as of Monday with 2,412 tests coming back positive for a positive test rate of 9 percent.

Nationally, 1.83 tests per 1,000 people are done every day and there have been 6.57 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. National positive test results, which peaked in April at 21 percent, are currently about 5 percent. They are much higher in some college and university towns.

All of this leads me to ask: What in the world has the NFL figured out that the rest of the country could copy? It’s not as if there is no contact in football. It’s kind of difficult for the left guard and the left tackle to socially distance themselves from each other. Presumably, many NFL players have school-age children — some of whom actually may be going to school and increasing their family’s risk to COVID-19 exposure.

Thanks to famed Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, we’ve all had an opportunity to hear the president voice his understanding — all the way back in February — about the severity of the virus. At another moment in one of the 18 interviews they did together, the president also said his administration had done all it could to prevent the the pandemic from taking off in the United States.

For the sake of discussion, let’s say the president is right about that even though it seems unlikely. He should still talk to whoever is running the NFL’s COVID-19 program. Look at the results: 5,708 people tested an average of nearly 8 times per person. Eight total positive tests. Is there a safer workplace anywhere in the country?

I can already hear the argument: The NFL’s 32 franchises are worth a combined $91 billion, according to Forbes. As a business, the NFL has the resources and plenty of motivation to test so much.

Can the same thing not be said about the United States of America?

There are 328.8 million Americans. If you tested every one of us up to eight times, that’s 2.6 billion tests. I’m not sure how much it costs to do a test, but let’s say it’s $100. Wouldn’t it be worth $262 billion to have a national positive test rate of 0.018 percent, or about 6 million Americans, who could be identified and monitored to prevent the virus from spreading to the rest of us?

Yes, I know we’re Americans and we don’t want government intruding into our lives that much. I get it. But 194,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 in eight months. Some estimates predict that number will increase to more than 400,000 by the end of this year. I’m going to say the loved ones they leave behind wouldn’t object to such an extensive national testing effort.

And don’t tell me we can’t afford it. In March, the federal government authorized $2 trillion in COVID-19 relief. The Democrats and Republicans in Congress, along with the Trump administration, have been arguing over the amount for another COVID stimulus package. They haven’t reached an agreement, but it seems likely they will eventually. It seems to me that spending billions on an extensive national testing program until a vaccine is available might eliminate the need for many of the other ways in which stimulus money would be spent to help Americans during the pandemic.

Call the NFL, Mr. President.

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