PGA Tour modifies guidelines for positive coronavirus tests

The tour originally said based on already existing guidelines players who tested positive could return after 10 days of isolation and 72 hours without a fever.

PGA Tour enters the eighth week of its return with another modification to its guidelines for positive COVID-19 tests (Representative Image).   -  Getty Images

The PGA Tour enters the eighth week of its return to golf with another modification to its guidelines for positive coronavirus tests and a gradual broadening of who gets to attend tournaments.

The updates on the test protocols mean the end of grouping players who have recovered from the coronavirus - or having them play alone - and excluding them from PCR testing, which detects whether a person is actively infected, for three months from when they first experienced symptoms.

The tour originally said three weeks ago, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, that players or caddies who tested positive with symptoms could return after 10 days of isolation and at least 72 hours without a fever.

CDC research indicated no instances have been determined where a virus was able to self-replicate 10 days after a positive test, although PCR tests could pick up what amounts to dead tissue and still return a positive result. People who get positive tests, under those circumstances, are not believed to be contagious.

As an extra layer of caution, the tour placed such players in the same group or sent them off as a single.

In a memo sent on Tuesday to players, the tour said based on new CDC guidance, those who test symptomatic positive only have to be fever-free for 24 hours to return after they conclude the 10 days of isolation. It said the new guidance also recommends no more PCR testing for those players for three months.

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Based on the new guidelines, the tour is doing away with what became known as the “COVID-19 groups.” For those who test positive and meet criteria to return, the tour is lifting restrictions that kept them from the clubhouse and other facilities at the course.

The memo said any player or caddie in this situation will meet with its medical team to make sure they fit the CDC requirements.

Meanwhile, the tour said while there will be no pro-ams or paid spectators for the rest of the season that ends September 7 at the Tour Championship. However, it is introducing “several small programs” that include more people at events that the tour believes “do not diminish the health and safety plans” in place.

That means players can bring a wife or significant other, but not additional family members. There will be no child-care facilities at events.

Tournaments and title sponsors will be allowed to have no more than 50 guests per day. They will be limited to specific areas, like hospitality tents or a room in the clubhouse. They will not be allowed to walk the course and must go through screening.

The tour also will allow 16 two-person groups to be “honorary observers” that walk outside the ropes.

The programs will be applied on a tournament-by-tournament basis under health guidelines for the area. It starts with the FedEx St. Jude Invitational this week. It does not include the PGA Championship next week. The Northern Trust at the TPC Boston, running from August 20 to 23, has not decided whether the spouses or honorary observer program will be allowed.

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