NBA modifies COVID protocol and will give less isolation time

NBA players who test positive for COVID-19 could now return to play after a shorter absence, after the league released a significant update of its health protocols on Monday.

Most notable change: Isolation periods for players who test positive could be significantly reduced – from 10 to six days – as long as players are asymptomatic and meet other testing standards. The teams received the new information in a memo sent by the league on Monday and accessed by The Associated Press.

The memo was sent on the same day that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered isolation restrictions for Americans who contract coronavirus, from 10 days to five. CDC officials made the decision, noting that evidence shows that people with coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after the first symptoms appear.

The NBA also relied on information, telling teams that the new protocols “reflect the analysis of information from the tests that the league and infectious disease experts and epidemiologists have collected throughout the pandemic.” The changes were made in common agreement with the Players Association.

The NBA has seen an increase in coronavirus cases in recent days, even as 97% of players are vaccinated and 65% of eligible players received their booster. A pair of coaches – Phoenix Suns ‘Monty Williams and Portland Trail Blazers’ Chauncey Billups – entered sanitation protocols Monday.

Phoenix hosted the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, while Portland – which has seven players on protocols – hosted the Dallas Mavericks. It will be the first game for the Trail Blazers since December 21; their Dec. 23 meeting with the Brooklyn Nets was postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the Nets. It is one of nine games the NBA has postponed until now.

The number of players in the health protocols remains around 120 on Monday, and at least 63 players have been ruled out for this Monday’s matches due to coronavirus problems. Notable additions to the list include Olympic champion and Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum.

Atlanta Hawks had 12 players out – 10 related to the virus and two due to injuries – for its game against Chicago, although the team recovered point guard Trae Young, who received clearance about 90 minutes before kickoff.