Among many curveballs throughout the 2020 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns are a playoff team for the first time in 18 years. That is unmistakably an accomplishment, given they transitioned to a brand new head coach and general manager entirely. The best part is that they’ll only grow and get better from here on out. I believe, however, the “Covid Dilemma” deserves to be looked into. It has failed the Browns in Week 16 against the lowly Jets when four wide receivers were forbidden to play and could potentially fail them again for next week’s playoff matchup (fingers crossed that it doesn’t). What exactly do these COVID-19 tests tell us? Why do they have such a hold on the league at the moment? How long will we walk on eggshells with COVID-19? These are all legitimate questions that need to be raised.
First, we need to understand what a PCR test actually indicates. This is the basis for declaring sick cases, conducting Orwellian “contact tracing” procedures and holding out players based on the assumption that they “may” be ill. Since this isn’t Cleveland Science Talk, we’ll skip over the medical verbiage. All you need to know is that PCR tests are run in “cycles.” Each cycle amplifies the size of the test specimen you provide when you get tested for COVID-19. The problem is that none of the positive tests coming from NFL players are specified with their “cycle threshold,” or the number of cycles it took to determine a positive result. Run the test at enough cycles and you will inevitably find some amount of virus that would otherwise be considered useless and commonplace.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, widely regarded as the leading “expert” on the Coronavirus front, has even stated the uselessness of PCR tests run at “35 cycles or above.” On July 16, 2020, as a guest on the podcast “This Week in Virology,” Fauci discussed the legitimacy of PCR tests to diagnose COVID-19 cases when run above 35 cycles of amplification:
“If you get a cycle threshold of 35 or more… the chances of it being replication-competent are minuscule, you almost never can culture virus from a 37 threshold cycle, even 36, it’s just dead nucleoids, period.”
What Fauci conveniently forgot to mention was that the FDA, which authorizes the test for widespread public use, recommends that the test be run up to 40 cycles (35). Any facility, NFL or otherwise, that follows FDA guidelines for running COVID-19 tests, is contributing false-positive results that are not only forcing talented and healthy players to sit but are spreading illogical, McCarthy-like paranoia throughout the nation.
If the NFL took the initiative to publicize how many cycles were used to determine that a player was indeed “positive,” using this sort of logic, some sanity could be restored to sports. Furthermore, players that are perfectly healthy could see the field and help their teams win, while infectious players are separated.
Now, the common response to this assertion is that players “could” spread COVID-19 because they are “asymptomatic.” Aside from being an outrageously Orwellian and ridiculous choice of word, there is not enough evidence from falsifiable studies to suggest “asymptomatic” spread occurs at all. A recent study out of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic, found that among nearly 10 million people asymptomatic transmission of the virus did not occur at all. The study was put together by the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan and from institutions from the UK and Australia.
Asymptomatic means “no symptoms.” Let’s consider this notion: one of the symptoms of carrying COVID-19 is having no symptoms? Maybe 1984 isn’t as fictional as we once thought. It is important to question the popular narrative about these tests because it is the engine of a tumultuous and shaky NFL as teams prepare week-to-week.
The Browns have everything they need to win regardless of this virus. A loss should not be blamed on COVID-19 or even the NFL. But there’s no denying the amount of deception and fraud at play when scare headlines are run describing the “skyrocketing of cases” or “wildfire spread of COVID-19.” And the effect it has on NFL teams is also undeniable, as players sit out the entire week of practice on the pre-emptive basis that they “might” be sick, and then “could” infect somebody. It’s time to use our brains and think about this process instead of opting for fear-based reactions.