The NBA, like each of the major professional American sports leagues, has struggled to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic through the first few weeks of the 2020-21 season.
Both the NFL and MLB had this same issue, leading to a tightening of protocols. In the case of basketball, extra precautions must be taken due to the close nature of the sport itself. Part of the new protocols include dictating what is and isn’t permitted on the road and at home, as well as trying to limit interaction with the opposing players.
However, this doesn’t account for the fact that players and referees are forced to be together without masks during the course of the game itself. Because of that, the league is looking to add more game-day testing to each team’s routine.
In the plan, home teams would be tasked with finding a lab that can process PCR tests within one day in order to return results for players, coaches, and officials within one hour of game time, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN:
The memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, asks each team to spend the next two days attempting to find local testing providers; the league plans to discuss those findings with the teams over the weekend with the goal of beginning to implement the extra tests sometime next week. The intent is to find a local provider of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that can turn around at least 40 tests — enough to handle players on both teams, as well as that night’s referees — that could be collected the morning of a game and returned at least one hour before tipoff.
PCR tests are generally seen as more accurate than the rapid tests that players usually undergo, which is why this could be an important step to curbing the spread within the NBA. If asymptomatic positive cases can be detected before they would show up on a rapid test, it would allow teams to better limit potential spread within their locker rooms and hopefully resulting in fewer postponements.
The league planned for a number of games to be postponed with the way they built their schedule, but it’s clear that everyone involved would prefer to play as many as possible without the need for pushing them back.
Adam Silver optimistic cases will decrease
As they did with the other major sports leagues, cases eventually decreased following the early season spikes. NBA commissioner Adam Silver is optimistic that the same will happen in this case.
He believes that the darkest days are currently happening, and that if they can just power through, they’ll be able to get back to more normal action by February.
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