The NBA is quickly finding out that playing sports during a pandemic is much more difficult outside of a bubble. Following a spike in COVID-19 cases and subsequent game postponements, the NBA and NBA Players Association announced new health and safety protocols this afternoon, which will be in effect for at least the next two weeks. Here are a few of the highlights:
— When at home, stay at home: This seems like an obvious one, but when a team is in its home market, players and team staff are required to remain at their residence 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. Away-from-work interactions are limited to those with household members, family and any personal staff working regularly in the home. Delivery drivers, rejoice!
— No outside guests at the hotel: When on the road, players and team staff are prohibited from leaving their hotel (other than for team activities or emergencies) or interacting with non-team guests at the hotel. So, no strip clubs, no random hookups.
— Facemasks everywhere: Players and team staff must now wear facemasks in all meetings, on the bench, in the locker room, during strength and conditioning activities and treatments such as massages and physical therapy, and when traveling with anyone other than a household member.
— Bench/flight buddy system: 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.
— Elbow or fist bumps only: 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.
— More testing: 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.
All of these protocols come on the heels of a new report from ESPN that multiple players who previously tested positive for COVID-19 are testing positive again.