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NBA tells teams to develop plans for limiting coronavirus exposure

David Castillo

Security guard David Castillo wears gloves while holding a basketball during halftime of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Houston. The NBA has told players to avoid high-fiving fans and strangers and avoid taking any item for autographs, the league’s latest response in its ongoing monitoring of the coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


In a memo sent in recent days, the NBA has told its teams they have until Tuesday to develop a “plan to limit the number of team and arena staff ... who interact with players” as part of their coronavirus response strategies.

NBA teams were also told to have an arrangement with an infectious disease specialist and to find a facility that could conduct testing for COVID-19.

“In light of the growing community spread of COVID-19 in the United States, and the emergence of community spread in Canada, we continue to closely monitor this situation and are having regular conversations with infectious disease and public health experts, including the CDC,” the NBA told teams in the memo sent Saturday night, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

No pro games in the U.S. have been called off yet.

The NBA told teams on Friday to prepare for the possibility of playing games in empty arenas, as some sports leagues in Europe have already done, an idea that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said he wanted no part of.

The NBA, in its Saturday night memo, also said teams quickly need a process to distribute hand sanitizer to all players and team staff and to ensure that supply does not run out.

The NBA also urged teams to cut team travel parties “to essential individuals only,” have team physicians join an upcoming road trip to study ways of limiting germ-exposure on the road and work with vendors — like bus companies, hotels and meal providers -- to understand their cleaning practices and ensure they have minimal contact with players.

“There’s a lot of due diligence going on,” Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said.

One idea reportedly being discussed is closing NBA locker rooms. Access would be to essential personnel only but would not eliminate media interviews with players before and after games, it would simply move them to a different location, possibly a news conference setting. The changes would, in theory, would allow teams to know if anyone in those areas has been tested for illness.

“In consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, we’re discussing with other sports leagues options to protect the health of everyone in our buildings, including those typically in our locker rooms,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “As always, we’re committed to providing appropriate media access.”

The U.S. death toll from the virus climbed to 19 on Saturday, with all but three of the victims in Washington state. The number of infections swelled to more than 400, scattered across about half of the U.S. states. Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska reported their first cases.