In documents, NBA details coronavirus testing protocols, including 2-week resting period for positive tests

ESPN is reporting that it obtained a 100-plus-page document sent to its players Tuesday. In the document, the NBA broke down virtually every detail of what life inside the league’s campus at Walt Disney World in Florida will be like when play resumes next month, from social distancing guidelines to activities players will be allowed to do in their time off.

None of the information was more important than how the league will handle a positive coronavirus test.

Once someone tests positive for the virus, the protocol lays out a several-step process that person will have to go through:

  • They will be placed in “Isolation Housing,” which will be a house, hotel or other facility that is different from the individual’s previous hotel room, at a location in which no individuals who have not tested positive are residing.
  • They will be administered a second COVID-19 test as soon as possible to guard against the possibility of a false positive. If that second test comes back positive, the person will remain in isolation housing.
  • If the second test comes back negative, a third test will be administered between 24 and 48 hours after the first test. If that test also comes back negative, the person will be allowed to reenter the NBA campus. If it comes back positive, the person will remain in isolation.

Once someone tests negative twice in a span of more than 24 hours, they will be allowed to leave isolation. However, though players will not be forced to be quarantined after that, they will have to wait for a two-week period — either from the first positive test if the player remains asymptomatic or from the resolution of symptoms — to pass before undergoing a cardiac screening. This is in accordance with the CDC’s cardiac-screening guidelines.

The league will utilize video technology to help with contact tracing for any individual who tests positive. The NBA will designate as a “close contact” anyone who was within 6 feet of the positive-test person for at least 15 minutes and anyone who had “direct contact with infectious secretions and excretions” (i.e., was coughed on). Those people will be tested.

The protocol for a positive test is one of many things covered in the document, which the National Basketball Players Association summarized in a memo to its players earlier Tuesday.

The players have until June 24 to inform their respective teams whether they plan to participate in the NBA’s return-to-play plan at Walt Disney World.

The league and union have agreed that any player who chooses not to play in the restarted season will have his compensation reduced by 1/92.6th for each game missed, up to a cap of 14 games. That calculation comes from the formula used if the league were to enact force majeure on the players. It also says that there won’t be further pay reductions if a player chooses not to play.

Although players who choose not to go to Orlando, Florida, will be docked pay, the memo explains that exceptions will be made for both “protected” and “excused” players. “Protected” players are those believed to be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Players who receive that designation from their teams can opt out and not lose any salary. Players can get the “excused” label by having a panel of three medical experts determine that they have higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Any player who wishes to be listed as “excused” must notify both his team and the union by June 25.

The protocol says that any team staff member who is deemed able to participate but chooses not to will be allowed to not go. Whether that person will be paid for the time not spent in Orlando will be determined by their team.

Everyone who arrives on the NBA campus — including players, staff and player guests — will have to certify in writing that they will adhere to all pre-arrival protocols and all league rules while in attendance. Teams must inform the NBA of any potential violations of the protocols by a player or team staff member and will handle discipline.

The league will establish an anonymous hotline for campus participants to report any potential or actual violations. The discipline for a player for violating the rules on campus will range from a fine to a suspension to removal from campus.

Each team will be allowed to have a travel party of 37 people inside the NBA campus. That will be 35 people made up of 15-17 players and 18-20 support staff members, plus a public relations official and a “content creator.” Teams will be able to share medical staff, PR staff, equipment attendants and mental health professionals.

Teams are encouraged to bring a mental health professional (it can be the team clinician) with their travel party. If they choose not to, teams must make telehealth appointments available, particularly if “any player experiences increased feelings of anxiety and stress upon transitioning to the campus and being away from household family members.” As teams advance in the playoffs, they will be allowed to add and swap out members of the travel party. Teams can add two staffers after advancing past the first round of the playoffs and two more after the conference semifinals. That is something multiple coaches pushed the league to adopt, sources told ESPN.

Once the teams arrive in Orlando, any player who leaves the NBA campus without prior approval will be required to go through a process upon reentry, including:

  • Enhanced testing (including deep nasal swab testing)
  • A 10- to 14-day self-quarantine period
  • A reduction in compensation for any game in which he is unable to play as a result of his absence from campus and/or the self-quarantine. This will fall under the same guidelines (1/92.6th for each missed game, not to exceed 14 games) as those for players who choose not to go to Orlando.

No one will be stopped from leaving the NBA campus. However, to minimize potential exposure to the virus, the expectation is that players and staff will not leave campus except in “extenuating circumstances.” Those include: the need to receive team-directed medical care off-campus, the birth of a child, a documented severe illness or death in the family, or a previously scheduled family wedding.

If a player is approved to leave, he will quarantine upon return to campus for four days if either of the following occurs:

  • He is gone fewer than seven days, and during each day off campus, he is tested for COVID-19, and the result(s) are negative.
  • He leaves for an extended absence and undergoes a daily COVID-19 test that comes back negative for at least the seven days before he arrives back on campus.

A separate handbook sent to players said teams will stay at three properties at Disney World: the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and the Yacht Club Resort. Other highlights from the document:

  • Athletes will have access to a players-only lounge that includes TVs, arcade gaming, access to NBA2K and pingpong.
  • A 24-hour VIP concierge will be available to players. The handbook says daily entertainment made available could include movie screenings and DJ sets.
  • Each team will have a dedicated Disney culinary team “to create individualized team menus, support team dietary needs, and ensure health and safety guidelines are followed,” according to the handbook. Players will get “three freshly-prepared meals a day, and four meals a day on Game days,” the handbook says.
  • Team-sponsored outings such as privatized restaurants, boating, bowling, fishing and golf will be available.
  • Players will have access to virtual chaplain services, yoga and meditation, virtual mind-health sessions and mental health services. Other amenities include the availability of barbers, manicurists, pedicurists and hair braiders by appointment.

The protocol lays out the six phases of participation that players, coaches and staff will go through between now and Oct. 13, the last possible day the NBA Finals could be played.

Phase 1, which goes from now through Monday, includes deadlines for players to report to their home cities: June 15 for players returning from overseas and June 22 for players returning from other places in the U.S. This does not apply to the Toronto Raptors, who are going to convene at Florida Gulf Coast University in Naples, Florida. Anyone who traveled to Florida from Toronto would have been subject to a 14-day self-quarantine period before being able to begin team activities.

Phase 2, which starts June 23, will have players being tested every other day, as well as the two days prior to when teams are scheduled to leave for Florida. Players’ first test will be both a test for COVID-19 done via a shallow nasal swab and oral swab and an antibody test done via a blood draw. The COVID-19 test will be repeated every other day, and the antibody test will be repeated only if a player tests positive.

During Phase 3, which will be July 1-11, players will begin mandatory individual workouts at team facilities. Group workouts will remain prohibited, though the number of players allowed in a facility at one time will increase from four to eight. Head coaches will be allowed to participate in and watch individual workouts.

Phase 4 was split into two parts: July 7-11, which includes the teams’ travel to Walt Disney World and the period afterward when they will be quarantined, and July 9-21, which covers the practice time teams will have once players and staff complete their quarantine period.

During the first part, for a player to be allowed to travel to Florida with his team:

  • He must have not tested positive for COVID-19 since league-wide testing began.
  • If he tested positive, he must have satisfied the criteria for the discontinuation of quarantine.
  • He must not have lived with anyone who has recently tested positive or exhibited symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Any player who fails to meet those standards will have to have arrangements to travel to Florida made by his team once he is cleared to do so.

Once teams arrive in Orlando, players and staff will be isolated in their rooms until they have two negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests at least 24 hours apart, which means anywhere from 36 to 48 hours in the hotel rooms. After two negative tests, they will no longer have to quarantine.

Players will have the option to wear a “proximity alarm” that will notify them if they spend more than five seconds within 6 feet of another person on campus who is wearing an alarm. This is optional for players and possibly referees; it will be mandatory for all team and league staff members.

Players also will be allowed to wear a smart ring that could help with early detection of COVID-19. The rings will track temperature, respiratory and heart rate, among other measurements.

Certain Disney staff won’t be required to reside inside the NBA campus but will be screened via symptoms and temperature checks. If they exhibit symptoms, staff will not be allowed to work. They are required to wear face coverings at all times and stay away from players as much as possible.

In a further attempt to slow the potential spread of the virus, players are being told to not spit or clear their noses, wipe the ball with their jerseys, lick their hands or touch their mouths unnecessarily while playing.

Beginning July 7, random drug testing will resume — but only for sports-related performance-enhancing drugs and diuretics. The league won’t test for recreational substances, but players remain subject to discipline for possession or use of prohibited recreational substances.

Once all players and staff have two negative tests, group workouts will be permitted. The league will continue to conduct COVID-19 tests, along with daily temperature checks, symptom surveys and use of a finger-clip device to measure oxygen levels. The testing could be as often as every day, with the protocol saying that the frequency will be based on the results of the tests.

After players have been cleared from quarantine, they will be allowed to socialize with players residing in the same hotel through July 21. The league has split the 22 teams into the three hotels, broken down by seeding. The top four seeds in each conference will be at the Gran Destino, seeds 5-8 in each conference will be at the Grand Floridian, and the six teams currently not in a playoff spot will be at the Yacht Club. From July 22 through the end of the playoffs, players will be allowed to spend time with any other player.

During Phase 5 (July 22-29), teams will play three scrimmages against other teams in the same hotel. Phase 6 covers the time teams will be playing in seeding and playoff games. Once teams are eliminated, players will be required to pass a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their scheduled departures.

Back to top button