Per a report from Bild, Bayern Munich’s standing policy for COVID-19 testing is more frequent than that of many other clubs, which may be a key factor in helping the club identify — and stem — the beginnings of a squad outbreak amid a sharp rise in cases in the Bavaria.
Bayern players currently undergo PCR tests every 2-3 days at Säbener Straße, more often than other clubs, which could be the reason FCB have the most cases. As of now, there are no specific testing rules from the DFL to the clubs [@BILD]— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) October 3, 2022
This is in keeping with the club’s relatively higher level of precaution with its players. In the recent Amazon documentary covering Hansi Flick’s 2020/21 season with the team, we saw Thomas Müller — then on his first infection — undergo tests in order to clear him to play again, and last season Alphonso Davies was held out for many weeks after similar scans revealed a cardiovascular complication of his mild course of infection.
In recent weeks, Bayern have been hit with four cases, though two of them — those of Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka — were uncovered while on Germany national team duty. Most recently, Müller and Joshua Kimmich were reported positive one day after Bayern's 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen, leaving their status and fitness for the upcoming Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund in doubt.
Let's talk about tests
(Views below are my own.)
If you don't test, there will be fewer cases, right?
A tempting thought, but unfortunately, the exact opposite is true, especially in a setting where players must be in close contact. So testing with great frequency is better than testing rarely. Such a requirement increases the chances of identifying positive cases early, when appropriate action can be taken to limit further spread.
For a club with high ambitions in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League, it's critical. For the simple matter of health and safety of all its involved personnel, it is just as important.
The Swiss cheese model
Routine testing is only one layer of protection, but the one over which the club has control. Asking its players to take sensible precautions — such as avoiding unnecessary close contacts — and requiring FFP2/FFP3-level masks for personnel around them, are further steps the club can and has taken. The idea is that while no single step is a silver bullet (or shield, as it were), multiple layers in concert will make it less likely for a highly disruptive transmission event to occur.
The good news is that most of these are simple steps. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is airborne, subject to the limitations of physics. We know how it spreads and we know how to contain it — improving indoor ventilation, filtering indoor air, social distancing, high-quality masking when we can.
The less good news is that these tools often aren't used, or ignored, or used insufficiently — a surgical mask worn under the nose over a FFP2, or inadequate investments in indoor air quality in schools, for example. This, combined with continual evolution towards immune escape, is making the community levels of COVID-19 high — both as a baseline, and then even higher in surges.
Bavaria is on the beginning of a sharp upswing that may take many weeks — even months — to resolve. Winter is coming, further clouding the upcoming picture.
Now that Bavaria is surging, it's harder for people to avoid, and that includes the players.
If the only reason for people to be more careful is helping out their local sports team, so be it! I'll take that W. But the other benefits of reducing your odds of passing it on are innumerable. Flattening the curve, even a little, helps keep it out of nursing homes and away from the immunocompromised. It helps prevent infections which can still maim even in mild cases; Long Covid is a poorly-understood phenomenon.
And it allows for more time to get booster shots — which have in some cases been newly updated to account for the currently-dominant BA.5 strain of the virus — into more arms.
For my part, I'm glad to see Bayern take this level of care with its players — and hope that more workplaces and institutions are encouraged to do the same.