The NBA’s decision to relaunch the season involves health and safety risks due to the global pandemic, but the league has outlined exhaustive preparations in a list of COVID-19 protocols.
First and foremost is a 108-page memo, which was released on Tuesday. It details how to protect the 22 teams heading to Walt Disney World to complete the season. The season is set to restart in late July.
How serious is the NBA about COVID-19 protocols?
“The word ‘testing’ appears 282 times in the document,” The Associated Press reported.
Players are barred from licking their hands and touching the ball or other objects. Spitting will also not be permitted in the relaunched NBA season.
Analyzing the planned protocols
National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts acknowledged that there are risks associated with moving the season to Florida.
“No one is suggesting that this is going to be an infection-free, guaranteed environment,” Roberts told The Associated Press. “I guess, unless we go to … well, where would we go? What state has the lowest rate? There’s just no way of finding a sterile environment probably on this planet, but certainly, not in this country.”
Despite an increase in positive COVID-19 tests in Orange County, which Orlando is a part of, in recent days, the NBPA chief said the NBA’s planned seclusion is important.
“My solace is that our guys are not going to be out and about in the city of Orlando,” Roberts said. “The players will be flown in noncommercial, and they will essentially be on campus for the entirety of their stay until such time as their season ends.”
A doctor’s perspective
Speaking to NBC Sports, Dr. Neel Gandhi, an epidemiologist at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, summed up the situation this way: “We’re still very early in this pandemic. It’s important that we be clear: we’re not bringing sports back because things are better now. We’re bringing sports back because we’re tired of not having them.”
COVID-19 protocols for players
Between June 23-30 players who have decided to play will return to their teams.
Training camps are set to begin in early July, according to the COVID-19 protocols.
Upon arriving in Orlando, team staff and players will be required to quarantine for 36 hours. What’s more, they’ll have to have a pair of negative COVID-19 tests more than a day apart.
In addition, players will be required to follow social distance rules off the court. Regular testing is another one of the COVID-19 protocols for players and coaches.
Furthermore, they must wear face masks outside of their hotel rooms or when they’re not eating or playing ball.
There will be “isolation housing” for players who test positive for the coronavirus.
As part of the thorough list of COVID-19 protocols, the league is calling for flexibility if necessary.
“The occurrence of a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the resumption of the 2019-20 season,” the NBA said in the memo. “The NBA and NBPA will continue to monitor the campus environment and season restart and, based on circumstances over the course of the resumption of the 2019-20 season, may discuss any modifications to the campus environment or these Protocols if the parties and their medical experts agree such measures are necessary to promote safety (e.g., increased physical distancing, dismissal of guests from the campus, additional health monitoring).”