As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rule daily life, the National Basketball Association has recently started the 2021 basketball season. After a very successful end of last season, in a bubble in Orlando, Florida, the league has started a new season with all teams playing in their usual facilities.
In order to ensure for the safety of all players, the NBA has released a robust set of protocols. One example is a specific procedure when players test positive for the virus. Players must wait 10 days from the beginning of symptoms or a positive test, or they must test negative twice, at least one day apart from each other. These dual tests must be PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), as these tests are able to detect asymptomatic cases, under the circumstance that a player’s symptoms are gone but they are still contagious. Another protocol is a drastically decreased number of people per airplane flight when players travel. Only 45 people can travel at a time, 17 of which being players. This dramatically cuts the number of team personnel that can travel with the team. Perhaps the most interesting change is a new rule to protect players that tested positive. Positive players are not allowed to participate in physical activity for ten days, and when they do resume exercise, they must be watched by team medical officials. This is a way to monitor and prevent post-COVID-19 heart and lung conditions that some people develop.
The more important thing is whether or not these protocols have actually helped the spread of the virus in the league. Unfortunately, the results have not been as strong as many had hoped. 40 players have received positive test results, more of them being recently. 23 teams out of 30 have had games postponed because of contact tracing. Several teams have had to play games without their superstar players, leading to a decreased quality of play. Many connect the increase in cases to carelessness on the court, as players continually high-five and forget to distance themselves.
As the National Basketball Association continues to play the season, many fear that conditions are too unsafe to continue. We will have to wait and see, as we hope the new vaccines will improve the safety for all the players.