The NBA relaxed its COVID-19 protocols this season after the majority of the league received vaccinations, but with a new wave taking hold across the country, the league has felt the full force of the virus in recent weeks. More than 50 players have entered the league's health and safety protocols in December alone, and two head coaches, Indiana's Rick Carlisle and Sacramento's Alvin Gentry are both out as well. The Chicago Bulls have become the first team to have games postponed, but as the virus continues to spread, the possibility for more persists. So the NBA and NBPA have taken action.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Baxter Holmes, the league will make changes to the way it has handled the virus this season. Most notably, starting on Dec. 26, players and staff will be tested for COVID-19 on all game days unless they have received a booster shot 14 or more days earlier or recovered from a recent infection. This is a notable change as vaccinated players had not been required to get tested earlier in the season. In addition, players and staff will be forced to wear masks on the bench, in team facilities and while traveling.
Still on the agenda for the two sides is figuring out how to help teams manage the roster absences caused by COVID-19. The Bulls had to have games postponed because they literally did not have enough healthy players to field a team. Many other teams have been forced to apply for hardship exemptions after losing significant portions of their lineups. Both the NBA and NBPA are determined to continue the season without interruption, according to Wojnarowski and Holmes.
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The NBA managed to make it through the 2020-21 season without a prolonged stoppage, and it did so without widespread vaccine access until later on. But the combination of the Delta and Omicron variants has led to one of the nation's biggest outbreaks yet, and the league is still trying to figure out how to combat this latest viral onslaught.