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NBA Will Enforce Additional COVID Protocols Due To Infection Surge

Ross Everett
by in NBA on
  • The NBA and NBA Players Association (NBAPA) have agreed to additional protocols to address the current surge in COVID-19 infections.
  • 84 players total have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols this season, including 68 in December.
  • So far, the NBA has postponed seven games impacting the teams with the most problematic outbreak situations.

The current surge in COVID-19 outbreaks has started to impact the sports world and that includes the NBA. So far, they’ve been able to avoid the more dire situation that the NHL is currently dealing with but that could be about to change. In light of the surge and prospect for more virulent outbreaks during the holidays, the NBA and NBA Players Association (NBAPA) have agreed to the enforcement of additional protocols including upgraded mask rules, additional testing and guidelines for teams signing temporary replacements for players in protocol. The increase testing is scheduled to be in effect through January 8 though this and the other provisions will remain in place “until agreed otherwise by the NBA and Players Association.”

COVID-19 infections are surging throughout much of the world including the United States, Canada and Europe. Earlier this week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared the COVID situation in the city a ‘major incident’ as case counts shot higher:

The move came as the number of patients in London hospitals increased 29 percent over the last week. The city has confirmed 65,525 new cases in the last week and 26,418 cases in the last day, the highest number since the start of the pandemic, Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office said in a statement on Saturday. The Greater London area has seen cases rise by nearly 200 percent over the last two weeks, making it the hardest hit area of Britain.

Khan also laid out a reality that exists not only in London but worldwide with the observation “the vast, vast majority” of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.” The current surge is a confluence of several factors–the continued obstinance and ignorance of ‘anti-vaxxers’ combined with the spread of the more virulent delta and omicron variants. The omicron variant is still being studied by researchers but it appears to be more easily transmissible though possibly less severe than previous incarnations of the COIVD virus. The ghoulish Dr. Anthony Fauci has been ubiquitous throughout the COVID pandemic and he gave an assessment of the situation to the media in advance of the Christmas holidays:

With Omicron, that we’re dealing with, it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter.”

CNN medical analyst Jonathan Reiner talked about how easily the omicron variant is transmitted and gave yet another plea to the clueless 40% of Americans that remain unvaccinated:

“This Omicron variant is extraordinarily contagious. It’s as contagious as measles, and that’s about the most contagious virus that we’ve seen. Why would you go into that kind of battle completely unarmed? Our vaccines will protect you, particularly if you are triple vaxed. People who are unvaxed should start the process now. Go ahead and go to your pharmacy and get vaccinated.”

Unvaccinated people face a 20 times greater risk of dying from Covid-19 and a 10 times greater risk of testing positive than fully-vaccinated people who have also received a booster, according to data recently published by the CDC. Even the hyper cautious Fauci suggests that fully vaccinated and boosted Americans can go about their holiday activities as planned provided they take precautions when necessary:

“If you’re vaccinated and you’re boosted, and you take care when you go into congregate settings like airports to make sure you continually wear your mask, you should be OK.”

Facui also urged air travelers to remained masked during flights. That is a bit unnecessary since face masks are now required on commercial aircraft and other means of interstate transportation. Passengers that refuse to keep their mask on during flight are likely to be met by TSA Air Marshals when they arrive at their destination.

The situation in the NBA is a microcosm of broader society though pro hoops might just now be experiencing the start of the most serious ‘surge’. Through Friday, 84 players have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols this season. 68 of those players entered protocol in December and this week there have been 13 on Tuesday, 11 on Thursday and 16 on Friday. So far there have been seven games postponed involving the hardest hit teams such as Chicago which at one point last week had 8 players in protocol. The players coming in and out of protocol are extremely fluid so numbers change quickly but at last count there were at least 39 players from 13 different teams in protocol representing approximately 8% of the league’s total player roster.

In addition to a strengthened mask requirement and increased testing, the NBA and NBAPA is working out a ‘replacement player’ plan for teams with significant COVID issues. The general idea–a team would be permitted to add a 10-day player, league sources said, but after a second, third and fourth case, teams would be required to add a 10-day player. Teams would be limited to three replacement players but the hope is that the mandate would allow teams to maintain enough depth on their roster to avoid cancellations. The league requires at least eight healthy players in the lineup for a game to be contested. Additionally, the additional players signed due to COVID issues will not cost against the league’s salary cap or ‘luxury tax’.

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