The NBA and its players’ union on Thursday agreed to enhanced health and safety protocols during the holiday season, a response to rising COVID-19 numbers.
According to The Associated Press, additional testing and a return to mask usage will be the norm during the holiday break.
The move comes the same day the NFL updated its protocols after an uptick in COVID-19 cases league-wide.
This month alone, 52 players have gone into the league’s protocols and more than 65 all season, ESPN reported.
The new mask rules will be in place “until agreed otherwise by the NBA and Players Association,” according to a memo sent to teams Thursday night and obtained by the AP. Masks need to be worn again in almost all circumstances during team activities. That includes travel, when players and coaches are on the bench during games, in meetings and in locker room, weight room and training room settings.
The exceptions will occur during on-court basketball activities for players, and for head coaches during games.
Testing will be increased beginning Dec. 26 through Jan. 8, league officials said. More requirements and recommendations would be released by the league over the next few days, “to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread within the team environment.”
“Now that we are seeing breakthroughs, we believe the need to test more often,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told The Athletic on Wednesday. “The notion of not testing, I get that people in society are saying, ‘I didn’t even know I’m sick.’ I get the sentiment. I can’t get my brain around (how) we’re not going to test just because we don’t want to know.”
The NBA and NBPA agreed to increased testing around Thanksgiving Day. The NBA has a 97% vaccination rate among players, and 60% of players have received a booster shot, according to The Athletic.
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