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NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Thursday he tested positive for the coronavirus, was resting comfortably at home and was making his test result public in hopes he could motivate people to do more to fight the pandemic.
Payton learned Thursday that he tested positive for the coronavirus, he told ESPN before posting a photo of himself smiling as he sat on a couch next to his dog.
“Appreciate the well wishes,” Payton wrote on his Twitter page. “I’m feeling better and fortunate to not have any of the respiratory symptoms. 4 more days at home.”
Payton, 56, is the first employee of either an NFL team or the league to make such a diagnosis public.
Payton told ESPN that he was tested Monday for the coronavirus after he began to feel ill a day earlier. He said he had not been admitted to a hospital and did not have a fever or cough.
“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have. I’m lucky,” Payton told ESPN. “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.”
Payton said he felt it was important to be particularly vigilant in Louisiana and the New Orleans area because of international tourist traffic, especially around recently concluded Mardi Gras festivities.
“So our parents, and those that are more susceptible to this virus, deserve everyone doing their best to combat it,” Payton said. “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.
“This is not just about social distancing. 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.”
Payton was tested soon after he returned from attending horse races Saturday at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., and the coach’s announcement had a ripple effect in horse racing.
New Orleans thoroughbred trainer Tom Amoss said he had spent time with Payton at Oaklawn Park and would immediately stop training horses that were scheduled to run at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds Race Course. The Fair Grounds remained scheduled to host the Louisiana Derby and several other graded stakes races Saturday, minus fans.
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“I am self-quarantining immediately and will get tested at the earliest possible time,” Amoss wrote on social media. “I feel great and have had no symptoms. Wishing Coach a fast recovery.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that the league’s primary concern is for Payton’s health and it should not be a surprise that the pandemic has affected the NFL.
“This news underscores the importance of everyone following the advice from medical and public health experts to protect themselves and others,” Goodell said.
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