Here's what you need to know about the NBA's new COVID-19 protocols

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·3 min read

The 2020-21 NBA season is fast approaching, and having no bubble at Disney World this time means the league will be playing under a new set of COVID-19 safety protocols.

Here’s what you need to know about the 134-page NBA health and safety protocol guide the league has distributed to teams and was obtained by Yahoo Sports.

The NBA is trying to keep as much of a bubble as it can

With NBA teams playing games in their home markets again, even more vigilance is needed with COVID-19 safety. The NFL is currently in the process of learning what happens when those protocols are shirked.

From the moments they step out of their car, players will be expected to wear facemasks at all times when at a team facility, except during workouts and practices. Coaches and training staff must wear their masks even during practice, with the guide specifically saying coaches may not pull down their masks to yell at players.

All teams will designate up to 45 people as their Tier 1 group, including players, coaches, training staff and more. That group will be prohibited from accessing any areas used for business operations (e.g. conference rooms) and will not be allowed to interact in person with Tier 3 individuals like facility operations personnel.

Traveling parties for NBA teams on the road are limited to 45 people as well, and that will be expected to “minimize risks to manage their health and enhance that of all individuals involved in the 2020-21 season.”

A lot of things happen after a positive COVID-19 test

If a player tests positive for COVID-19, teams will have a lengthy checklist of things to do.

After a confirmed positive test, teams will have to inform local public health authorities, employ contact tracing, clean and disinfect any area the player has occupied since he last tested negative and provide housing for the player to isolate until meeting certain thresholds.

Per ESPN, teams typically aren’t allowed to pay for player housing because it could be a way to circumvent the salary cap (a rent-free mansion would have quite a bit of value in contract talks), but the realities of coronavirus has forced the league to change its ways.

The court floor and league logo are shown after Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference final between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
It's a new NBA season. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

There are two ways for an NBA player to return from COVID-19

So, a player on your favorite team has tested positive for the coronavirus. When can you expect to see them on the court again?

There are two ways for a player to be cleared from isolation. One is the “time-based resolution,” in which players must wait until 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms. The other is the “test-based resolution,” where a player must test negative in two consecutive test more than 24 hours apart. After either condition is met, the player will go through a medical review.

Upon return via the time-based resolution, the player will have to spend two more days working out alone with a mask until he can rejoin the team.

The snitch line still exists

Back by less than popular demand, players will once again be encouraged to anonymously report any violations of the NBA’s protocols to the league office.

Long live the snitch line.

A small number of cases won’t shut down the season, but ...

It was eight months ago when Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus and shut down the 2019-20 season. Since the league resumed play, no player has tested positive before a game.

So what happens when a player tests positive again? The league will keep playing:

“The occurrence of independent cases or a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the 2020-21 season.”

What happens in the event of a large number of cases? The guide doesn’t say.

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