The NBA is hoping to slow the spread of COVID-19 within the league by adding more stringent health and safety protocols.
The league and National Basketball Players Association announced an additional set of protocols on Tuesday, “In response to the surge of COVID-19 cases across the country and an uptick among NBA teams requiring potential player quarantines.”
With tonight's Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns game postponed, there have been seven NBA games postponed so far this season. ESPN reports that among the 100 positive tests the NBA has announced since last summer, “multiple players who previously tested positive for the coronavirus have recently tested positive a second time.”
After a three-month hiatus that started last month, the league was able to finish the 2019-20 season in a bubble setting near Orlando, Fla. The early stages of the 2020-21 season have seen the league resume with its usual format of teams hosting games in their home cities.
To ensure that can continue, the NBA and NBPA have adopted the following protocols for at least the next two weeks:
- Players and team staff are required to remain at their residence (when the team is in its home market) at all times except to attend team-related activities at the team facility or arena, exercise outside, or perform essential activities, or as a result of extraordinary circumstances.
- Any pre-game meeting in the locker room is limited to no more than 10 minutes in duration and all attendees must wear a facemask. All other meetings involving players and team staff must continue to occur on the court, in a league-approved space, or at the arena in a room large enough to provide for at least 6 feet of distance between individuals. Meeting attendees must continue to wear facemasks at all times.
- For team flights, teams must create a seating plan on planes so that players whose assigned seats are closest to each other on the bench for games are also closest to each other on the team plane. All treatment sessions at a hotel, such as massages and physical therapy, must occur in a ballroom or other large open space, with at least 12 feet between individual stations. Facemasks and face shields are required for all individuals during such sessions.
- Players are prohibited from arriving at the arena more than three hours before tip-off. During the pre- and post-game periods, players must limit interactions to elbow or fist bumps, avoid extended socializing and maintain 6 feet of distance as much as possible.
- All players must wear facemasks on the bench at all times. Upon exiting the game, and prior to returning to the bench, players can sit in “cool down chairs,” arranged at least 12 feet from the bench with each chair 6 feet apart, where facemasks are not required. Once a player has cooled down, he must return to his assigned seat on the bench and wear a facemask until he enters the game again. Players must always wear facemasks in the locker room, during strength and conditioning activities and when traveling with anyone other than a household member. Coaches and other team staff must wear facemasks at all times during games.
- Any individual who regularly visits the interior of the home of a player or team staff member for a professional purpose must undergo COVID-19 testing twice per week. For any team with a positive player case or high-risk staff member case, the NBA may require players and team staff to undergo five consecutive days of twice-per-day, lab-based testing, in addition to daily point-of-care testing.