Ahead of training camps opening up across the NBA next week, the league has compiled a comprehensive health and safety protocol for the 2020-21 NBA season and sent it to its teams.
The document, which was obtained by ESPN, is well over 100 pages long, and is similar to the one the league created to govern everything that happened inside the bubble it created at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, this summer.
This time, however, the league will be attempting to combat the virus without the benefit of being inside a bubble where it was able to be successfully sealed away from the outside world.
And, like in that document, the league has constructed a rules system for what will happen when someone tests positive for COVID-19. Under such a scenario, there are two potential paths to return: a “time-based” resolution, and a “test-based” resolution.
Under the time-based resolution, the infected person would have to either have gone at least 10 days since the date of their first positive test or the onset of any symptoms, if they’ve had any; gone at least 24 hours since their fever went away without using any medications; and other symptoms have improved, while specifically noting that losses of taste or smell alone are not expected to prevent someone from leaving isolation.
Under the test-based resolution, the person must return at least two consecutive negative PCR tests from samples taken at least 24 hours apart.
Either way, any player who is determined to have a new positive case from testing — whether they have symptoms or not — will not be allowed to participate in any exercise training for at least 10 days from either the positive test or the resolution of symptoms, if they have any.
Once a player has waited that minimum of 10 days, they then must spend two days working out by themselves, not interacting with anyone or participating in any team activities, wearing a mask at all times when at the facility — whether they are working out or not — and must participate in a cardiac screening. So any player who tests positive will have to miss a minimum of 12 days before they can return to play.
Any player who has had a severe case of COVID-19, or who was hospitalized at any point, will have to be observed for at least three full days before they can be cleared to return to play.
When someone tests positive for the coronavirus, teams must go through a variety of steps, including: reporting the positive test to local authorities; contact trace all close contacts; clean and disinfect any space controlled by the team or its arena where the person who tested positive had been since their last negative test; and set up isolation housing for the person with the positive test.
Typically, teams are unable to pay for housing for their players, as it is seen as a way to circumvent the league’s salary cap. However, in this unique situation, the league has waived that to allow for teams to be able to pay for isolation housing for any players who test positive.
As for the possibility of suspending the season — like the NBA did back in March — the league doesn’t state what would trigger such a decision to need to happen again. Instead, all it says is that, “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.”
The document says it is designed to “promote prevention and mitigation strategies to reduce exposure to, and transmission of, the coronavirus,” but that it is likely some players and staff will contract the virus.
As the league confronts the reality of teams having to crisscross the country in order to try to attempt to complete the 72-game regular season, and the playoffs after that, it has imposed a limit of 45 people for any team’s travel party — including up to 17 players. The protocol states that, “as when in their team’s market, members of the traveling party shall remain obligated to minimize risks to manage their health and enhance that of all individuals involved in the 2020-21 season.”
It also says further information regarding what travel parties will be permitted to do on the road will be provided at a later date.
The NBA’s preseason opens Friday, Dec. 11.