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Why Jerry Jones ramped up Cowboys' COVID-19 measures, created bubble for nearly 80 staff members
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Why Jerry Jones ramped up Cowboys' COVID-19 measures, created bubble for nearly 80 staff members

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Dallas Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones, back, and owner Jerry Jones watch as their team warms up before an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 37-34. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Jerry Jones had been giving the idea some thought. The positive test out of Pittsburgh hours after the Cowboys hosted the Steelers accelerated the discussion.

The Cowboys owner was determined to be proactive. He didn't want to sit back with COVID-19 cases rising dramatically and the holidays on the horizon and wonder if he could have done more.

That's why coaches and staff that have direct contact with the players moved into the hotel adjacent to The Star on Monday. That's why the Jones family has made arrangements and will pay for the family members of staff who come to town to visit for Thanksgiving and Christmas to be tested prior to exposure.

No timetable has been articulated, but indications are this bubble for football operations will remain in place at the Omni Hotel for the remainder of the Cowboys season. It impacts in the neighborhood of 80 employees.

Several members of the organization spoke of these measures Tuesday. Those acquainted with the factors Jones weighed outlined what went into his decision.

Steelers tight end Vance McDonald tested positive for the coronavirus less than 24 hours after playing against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Nov. 8. The result kicked the Cowboys into the intensive protocol phase, leading head coach Mike McCarthy to cancel the one practice he had scheduled for the bye week.

Jones had already been following the dramatic surge in cases locally. Even before McDonald, he had noticed an increase in the smattering of positive tests around the NFL. He was aware of the threat posed by the flu season and the holidays.

Dr. Allen Sills, the league's chief medical officer, held a conference call with reporters Tuesday and called the holidays a "period of vulnerability."

All of this led Jones to question what more could be done. He wanted to go above and beyond the protections afforded by the NFL.

The Cowboys had put the players up at the Omni Hotel during an abbreviated training camp. The Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn't allow clubs to do this during the season. But Jones could do that with everyone in football operations who come in contact with the players.

Arrangements got underway during the bye week. Jones recognized the inconvenience to staff. His response: establish a separate testing site that families can use during the holidays before visiting their loved ones.

The organization will absorb the cost of testing for family members of staff.

The statistics collected by the NFL support the approach taken by the Cowboys. Sills told reporters positive cases of the virus have largely come from the community and that the spread within practice facilities has been minimal. The league provided these numbers from Aug. 1 to Nov. 14:

The number of confirmed positive tests for players is 95.

The number of confirmed positive tests for non-players is 175.

Jones understands this provides no assurance that the team will navigate the final seven weeks of the regular season unscathed. But it's an extra layer of protection that could make a difference.

It's the response you would expect from a proactive owner.

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(c)2020 The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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