The PGA Tour has confirmed that Nick Watney, Dylan Frittelli and Denny McCarthy will return to action at this week's Workday Charity Open - despite all three continuing to test positive for COVID-19.
All three players have missed recent tournaments during the early weeks of the tour's so-called 'Return To Golf' after testing positive for coronavirus.
However, despite continuing to return positive tests, they will be permitted to play in this week's Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village as, according to the tour, they each meet the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for returning to work.
Watney, Frittelli and McCarthy will play together in the opening two rounds of the tournament.
The tour issued a statement on Wednesday in order to clarify what it called "the time-based protocols regarding players and caddies testing positive for COVID-19 and classified as symptomatic".
This update comes a week after the tour transitioned to a test-based model for asymptomatic cases.
In accordance with those CDC guidelines, a player or caddie who tests positive for COVID-19 but has not displayed symptoms may return to competition if he returns two negative tests, a minimum of 24 hours apart.
Meanwhile, any player or caddie who tests positive with symptoms and continues to test positive can return provided that:
• At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery, which is defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (eg, cough, shortness of breath).
• At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
“In the beginning stages of the illness, the virus is assumed to be active virus that can cause infection, can be contagious,” explained the PGA Tour's medical advisor Dr Tom Hospel.
“As time passes and as symptoms resolve, and the patient or individual doesn't have any fever and ten days have passed, at that point the thought and theory is that this virus, this particle that's being detected in the nasopharyngeal swab, is no longer active or contagious, or can potentially cause ongoing infection.
“What we have learned along the way is that, in some instances, individuals can continue to test positive for weeks if not months beyond when their illness started. The thought is that those individuals are no longer contagious, but you're picking up dead virus. They are not presumed to be contagious at that point.”
At this week’s Workday Charity Open, Frittelli, McCarthy and Watney will follow the symptom-based model, as they have continued to return positive tests but meet the CDC guidelines for 'Return to Work'.
Andy Levinson, the PGA TOUR Senior Vice President for Tournament Administration, explained that any other players who fit this criteria will have similar limitations on potential playing partners.
“They would play either individually or with people in similar situations, and they would have some restricted access on‑site,” Levinson said. “They would not be allowed in any of the facilities on‑site. However, they would be permitted to compete."
He added: "This is not a rethinking. This is not an adjustment. This has been our policy from the beginning with respect to symptomatic positives. This is just a clarification so that everybody understands what's going on now that we're four weeks in, we've had some positive cases, and we have people returning to competition."