As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, the NBA, which has already postponed nine games with more than 90 players in health and safety protocols as of Thursday night, has been adjusting its policies on the fly.
Teams are now permitted to sign one replacement player for every one they lose to COVID protocols, and they are required to sign one for every two they lose. Starting Dec. 26, all players and staff, whether vaccinated or not, will be tested for COVID on all game days unless they have received a booster shot 14 or more days earlier or recovered from a recent infection.
Previously, vaccinated players had not been required to get tested. Also starting Dec. 26, players and staff will be required to wear masks on the bench, in team facilities, and while traveling.
The latest attempt to slow down the surge of cases within the league: Each team, per Shams Charania of The Athletic, will be “required to host a booster shot event by Dec. 31 in which booster doses are made available for eligible players, staff, and their families.”
That doesn’t mean players and staff are required to get a booster, just like there is no league mandate regarding the initial vaccine doses. This merely encourages the booster dose and makes it readily available.
Even amid the surge, not all league protocols are tightening. One, in fact, could be getting looser. Below is an explanation from our James Herbert, citing reporting from Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, regarding the potential implementation of shorter isolation periods for qualifying cases:
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are nearing an agreement to shorten the mandatory isolation period for some players who test positive for COVID-19, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Players could be eligible to return as soon as six days after testing positive, depending on cycle threshold (CT), as first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
The details are expected to be shared with teams soon, per ESPN, but it’s unclear when the new arrangement would go into effect and how it might affect the five nationally televised games scheduled to be played on Christmas Day.
This new plan would effectively modify the existing health and safety protocols, which stipulate that a player who tests positive must quarantine until either a) 10 days after the initial positive test or the onset of symptoms, 24 hours after a fever has subsided without medication and the CT is greater than 30; or b) the player tests negative on two PCR tests, 24 hours apart.
Indeed, this is all fluid as the league, country, and world at large continue to grapple with this pandemic.