As the NBA prepares for the 2021-22 season, more information is starting to be released regarding the league's COVID-19 protocols. The league recently announced that all referees must be vaccinated, in addition to any team or arena personnel that comes into contact with players. That includes coaches and front-office executives, to photographers sitting courtside and those at the scorer's table.
The league, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, also informed all 30 teams of its testing protocols for the upcoming season on Tuesday. Fully-vaccinated players will reportedly not require regular testing. For those non-fully-vaccinated, one negative test on practice/travel day will be required, as well as two negative tests on game day.
COVID-19 vaccinations will also not be required for players ahead of the new season, according to Charania.
Specific teams will also be following local government COVID-19 guidelines, which means that players for the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors will all reportedly be required to be fully vaccinated to play in home games, in accordance with New York City and San Francisco's vaccine mandate. However, that mandate doesn't apply to visiting teams.
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While the league won't require all players to be fully vaccinated, those who are will be afforded certain privileges as opposed to the unvaccinated or not fully vaxxed. Per Charania, those privileges include:
- Fully vaccinated players and team personnel will not be required to undergo regular coronavirus testing during the 2021-22 season, per Charania.
- Fully vaccinated individuals won't be required to quarantine if they come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, and won't be restricted from team activities.
- If all players on a team are fully vaccinated, there may not be any restrictions on "away-from-work activities," such as attending indoor bars, clubs and lounges.
That is a stark difference from last season when daily testing was the norm, and there were heavy restrictions against even eating at restaurants while traveling on the road. But with the widespread access of several vaccines against COVID-19, the NBA plans to allow those who are fully vaccinated to have a sense of normalcy return to their lives during the season.
For individuals not fully vaccinated, though, daily testing will be required and they will be required to quarantine if they come into close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus. They will be required to wear masks at team facilities and during team travel and will not be allowed to sit next to other players during activities, per Charania.
These guidelines could obviously change if COVID-19 reaches the point it was at when the last season started in December 2020. But for right now, the league is hoping that with enough fully vaccinated players -- which NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said that 90% of the league is vaccinated -- there won't be the need to postpone as many games.
Training camps for the upcoming season start at the end of September, with the regular season for the 75th anniversary of the NBA tipping off Oct. 19.