NBA shortens protocols to six days for vaccinated players

Last week, Commissioner Adam Silver revealed that the NBA was considering changing its health and safety protocols in the face of widespread player absences.

Today, one of those changes has indeed been implemented. Now, vaccinated players will no longer have to sit for ten days before being allowed to return. That has been shortened to six days, with other options for early testing still in place.

Via Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN:

Vaccinated NBA players and coaches can now lift the quarantine after six days if COVID-19 test data shows they are no longer at risk of being infectious, according to a note distributed to teams on Monday and obtained by ESPN.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have agreed to changes that will replace a protocol that required league staff to wait 10 days to test out of quarantine when returning to competition. The new protocol includes players, coaches, staff and referees.

Individuals can still take out-of-quarantine testing with two negative tests 24 hours apart each.

As Woj notes, the rise of the omicron variant has shaken league planning; Silver said during her ESPN interview with Malika Andrews last week that the variant is responsible for 90% of the league’s new cases. But for those vaccinated, the variant poses less serious risks, and the league has plenty of data to make that decision. The shortening from ten days to six should mean players miss fewer games, something the league likely needs to maintain its competitive integrity this season.

In addition, as Woj notes, more tests are coming, which will likely reveal many asymptomatic cases among the vaccinated players:

One hundred and sixty-six players have signed the league’s health and safety protocols over the past two weeks, including a 24-day high on Sunday. The league has started a two-week post-Christmas test increase which is expected to continue to return a significant number of positive tests.

This reduction in quarantine time should have an immediate impact on the status of many players who are already in league health and safety protocols.

It should be good for everyone involved. This includes the league’s television partners; Last week, for example, the league turned the Indiana Pacers-Miami Heat game into a TNT slot after the original game was postponed, which led to one of the smallest ESPN / ABC / TNT audiences since 2017 . (Yes, it was against the NFL games, but still.)

With the increase in the league’s national television schedule after Christmas, it will be even more important to be able to recover players faster if they test positive. The CDC announced today that it is making a similar recommendation as well, and as Silver noted that the league is in contact with the CDC and other authorities, they likely knew this was coming:

It looks like the NBA is doing it with a measured approach as well, based on real science. It’s sad that this is actually remarkable, but (pointing to American society) here we are!


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