As the NBA continues to try to figure out a way to resume the 2019-20 season, the league sent out a memo on Thursday to tell teams not to set up coronavirus tests for asymptomatic members of the organization, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. "For the time being, it is not appropriate in the current public health environment to regularly test all players and staff for the coronavirus," the memo states. Obviously, players or staff members that show symptoms of COVID-19 will be encouraged to get tested.
Teams were instructed to make decisions regarding testing "in consultation with an infectious disease specialist, and in consideration of the patient's individual circumstances and guidance on testing related to COVID-19 from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and from the local health authority in the team's market," per ESPN.
The memo also states that the league is still looking into league-wide testing options. The NBA had previously been criticized for testing entire teams, even asymptomatic players, while the tests still weren't readily available for the general population.
"With all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested," New York mayor Bill de Blasio Tweeted in March. In response to de Blasio, NBA spokesman Mike Bass released the following statement:
"Public health authorities and team doctors have been concerned that, given NBA players' direct contact with each other and close interactions with the general public, in addition to their frequent travel, they could accelerate the spread of the virus. Following two players testing positive last week, others were tested and five additional players tested positive. Hopefully, by these players choosing to make their test results public, they have drawn attention to the critical need for young people to follow CDC recommendations in order to protect others, particularly those with underlying health conditions and the elderly."
The NBA has been suspended since March 11, but the league is looking to get back to business. The league had initially intended to reopen its practice facilities in areas with relaxed social distancing guidelines on May 1. However, it announced Monday that it will push that date back until at least May 8. The league also set the following guidelines for workouts at team facilities:
- No more than four players would be permitted at a facility at any one time.
- No head or assistant coaches could participate.
- Group activity remains prohibited, including practices or scrimmages.
- Players remain prohibited from using non-team facilities such as public health clubs, fitness centers or gyms.
Additionally, players in team facilities must wear face masks at all times except during physical activity, and team staffers must remain at least 12 feet away from them, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
While opening practice facilities is a solid step forward for the league, there's still a long way to go before games could potentially be played. First, a logistical plan to return to action (likely without fans) will have to be put into place by health officials in conjunction with the league. Then, the players will still need an adequate buffer of time in order to get back into game shape, as many of them don't have hoops and other necessary equipment at their homes and thus haven't played any sort of basketball since mid-March.