NBA and NBPA plan to increase Covid testing

With the League facing a wave of positive COVID-19 tests, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are in talks focused on increasing testing across the League for vaccinated players and staff, league sources told ESPN.

As of Wednesday morning, a total of 60 players have entered health and safety protocols this season, including 43 in the past two weeks. Thirteen players entered the protocols on Tuesday, by far the highest of any day this regular season. The previous high in a single day was four.

The Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets and Brooklyn Nets have all been hit by outbreaks, and the two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks entered protocols Tuesday.

While testing talks between the NBA and the NBPA are ongoing, testing across the League is expected to increase over the Christmas and New Year holidays as well, including for those who are vaccinated, League sources said.

Enhanced testing was also instituted around the Thanksgiving holiday, and the NBA and NBPA agreed that all Level 1 players and staff members, anyone working within 15 feet of players, be tested daily from the November 28-30, including those who are vaccinated.

There are also expected to be more reinforcement requirements for staff beyond Level 1 staff, League sources said. Currently, the NBA has imposed a Friday deadline for players who are eligible to receive booster injections, and those who do not face stricter protocols, including game-day testing.

Regarding personnel, the NBA noted in a previous memo that eligible personnel who have not yet received a booster will no longer be able to interact in person with players, travel with the team, or continue as “Level 1 Personnel,” with limited exceptions. .

Team executives and team health officials have in recent days described a sense of frustration regarding players who tested positive but are asymptomatic, as these team officials said they are hopeful that the league some day, perhaps soon, it reaches a point where only players who feel ill will be sidelined.

But the NBA remains aware, league sources said, that those who are asymptomatic could still transmit the virus, and the league remains committed to following guidance from the CDC, WHO and its own infectious disease experts.

Despite 97% of players being vaccinated, some team executives and health officials expressed concern before the season that the NBA would not enter the season by testing all vaccinated players on a break from the previous season. . In such a circumstance, keeping track of the virus amid potential breakthrough cases, these team officials said, would be a challenge. But it was also understood in the league that daily tests in a largely vaccinated league would likely not receive enough participation to be approved or enforced, these team officials said.

“I’m actually fine with that if we understand the risk factors,” a Western Conference general manager told ESPN regarding the lack of daily testing for all vaccinated players.

The League is hopeful that more players and reinforcements will improve immunity, but it seems unlikely that the league, according to the NBPA, will require reinforcements, League sources said. The NBA achieved about a 97% vaccination rate without requiring vaccines, and there is optimism that it could achieve similar numbers for booster shots without requiring them.

There is skepticism in the league that the recent rally, which many team executives and health officials say was predicted months ago, would cause a shutdown, although further delays are expected. Several NBA general managers noted that the League overcame the COVID-19 surge from last winter, despite several postponed games, and was able to finish the season and crown a champion.

But there is definitely a growing concern among team health officials and team executives who see other Leagues facing their own outbreaks and game postponements or cancellations.

“Now we are practically defenseless, not against getting sick, but against transmission and contraction,” said a Western Conference head athletic trainer.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report.


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NBA and NBPA plan to increase Covid testing