The first confirmed case of the coronavirus has hit the NFL.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton told ESPN that he has tested positive for the virus, officially known as COVID-19.
“This is not just about social distancing,” Payton told ESPN. “It’s shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It’s not complicated to do what they’re asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact.”
According to ESPN, Payton said that on Sunday, he was not feeling well and took the test on Monday. He received the test results Thursday afternoon.
ESPN reported that Payton has been resting at home and fatigued, but that he is one of the cases in which symptoms of cough or fever are not exhibited. Payton will now be quarantining himself at his home through this upcoming weekend, but he said that he is upbeat and optimistic about a full recovery.
On Saturday, Payton was at the horse races at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for an event that was closed to the public. This was after the NFL had sent a memo to all NFL teams mandating that they cease hosting and visiting prospects eligible for the draft. The memo also asked team executives to consider methods to protect team officials and personnel from the spread of the virus.
“Like everyone else around the country and everyone else around the world, we’re all making the necessary changes and really prioritizing what’s important,” Payton said Saturday in an interview with TVG. “Look, I think the thing that’s lost in it all is for us that are maybe younger, it’s one thing, we could become infected and obviously carriers, but the way you must feel if you’re an older person, that’s something you would never want.”
Payton becomes the first known case of the coronavirus in the NFL after there have been several confirmed cases in the NBA, MLB’s minor leagues, NHL and several European soccer leagues. As of Thursday morning, there were 9,400 reported cases of the virus in the United States, with the death toll reaching 150.
Payton, 56, has been the coach of the Saints for 13 seasons and won Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have,” Payton told ESPN. “I’m lucky. Younger people feel like they can handle this, but they can be a carrier to someone who can’t handle it. So we all need to do our part. It’s important for every one of us to do our part.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Louisiana has been one of the states most impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, with 261 reported cases as of Thursday. Because New Orleans, and the French Quarter neighborhood in particular, are popular tourist destinations, Payton felt the need to go public with his case.
“The concern with Louisiana is the amount of people that come in and out of this area after Mardi Gras season,” Payton told ESPN. “This is an area that doctors are concerned about. So our parents, and those that are more susceptible to this virus, deserve everyone doing their best to combat it.
“There are hundreds of people right now in tough predicaments, fighting for their lives. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem. We can easily help reduce the numbers of those impacted. We have to do our best to beat this and I know we can.”
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.