Wednesday, January 19, 2022

NBA tweaks COVID protocols, shortens isolation periods in certain situations, per report

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The NBA is altering its health and safety protocols for isolation after a player tests positive for COVID-19, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Players outside of a team’s environment can now exit isolation after only five days. If they are on the road, that means that they can fly commercially back to their home market (if masked) while also entering buildings and interacting with other people face-to-face. Players can return to team activities after six days of isolation if they return tests with a high-enough CT count (35 or above) on days five and six. Two negative tests taken 24 hours apart or reaching the 10-day mark after the first initial positive test also allow a player to clear isolation. 

Recent data has suggested that fully vaccinated individuals who have received a booster shot clear the virus out of their systems faster than the original guidelines accounted for. NBA players are roughly 97 percent vaccinated and 65 percent boosted, according to the most recent reporting. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged last week the league was considering making a change in an interview with Malika Andrews on ESPN’s “NBA Today.”

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“We always are measuring viral loads with our PCR tests, that’s part of the protocol,” Silver said. “And so it’s something … not just our doctors, but the medical community is looking at. One, I think they’re already realizing that you can move away from the 10-day protocol when you have players who are vaccinated and boosted. It seems like the virus runs through their systems faster. They become not just asymptomatic but, more importantly, they’re not shedding the virus anymore. That’s the real concern, in terms of (spreading the virus to) others. We are actively looking at shortening the amount of days that a player is out before he can return to the floor.”

Many NBA players have been asymptomatic or have had only mild symptoms amid this current league-wide outbreak. The league’s previous protocols accounted for that to an extent, as players with moderate to severe symptoms could not exercise for 10 days following the onset of those symptoms, while lesser symptoms called for only a seven-day break from exercise and asymptomatic players could exercise after only three days, but the quarantine period was identical for all positive tests. That is now changing. 

Many teams have been forced to rely on players signed only recently with hardship exemptions to play serious roles for them on the court. A faster quarantine period will hopefully make it easier on teams to field proper teams and avoid postponements.

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