While the NBA seems to be returning to a sense of normalcy following the derailment of the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league has put health and safety protocols in place to ensure the season runs smoothly.
Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vučević was the latest player to go through the NBA’s health and safety protocols. After exiting isolation, Vučević is set to enter the cardiovascular testing phase and will be nearing a return.
Many fans may wonder when a player can return to play after being placed in the league’s health and safety protocols, so the NBA has laid out a several-step process that each person will have to go through:
What happens if a player tests positive for COVID-19?
Once a player has a positive test for COVID-19, 10 days must pass since the first positive and at least 24 hours must have passed since a fever broke. The player must return at least two negative PCR test results from samples collected at least 24 hours apart.
Does a player have to enter isolation after a positive test?
The NBA’s protocol requires coaches, players and staff to isolate if they have been in contact with individuals that have tested positive.
What happens once a player is cleared to return?
Once a player is cleared from isolation, a cardiac screening is required for a player to return to activity. The player must rest and cannot exercise for at least 10 days from the first onset of symptoms.
There is an observation process for players to return to game play.
If a player shows severe symptoms, they must be observed for a minimum of three days before being cleared to return to competition by the team’s consulting cardiologist.
If a player shows moderate symptoms, they must be observed for a minimum of two days before being cleared to return to competition by the team’s consulting cardiologist, and if they show little to no symptoms, a player can return to competition once they are cleared from isolation by a team and league doctor.
Is the protocol the same for a vaccinated player?
Entering the 2021-22 season, one of the biggest storylines was how players felt about being vaccinated against COVID-19. It was reported that 97 percent of NBA players have been vaccinated, including a group of players who have received at least their first shot. While the NBA has not mandated players to be vaccinated, local guidelines may prevent a player from playing in their home arena. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who is unvaccinated, cannot play home games due to New York City's COVID-19 vaccination regulations, and he won't join the team until he's fully eligible to play.
Unvaccinated players must remain at their residences while at home and remain in their hotels while on the road. Vaccinated players will not have to deal with such tight restrictions. They will not have to undergo daily testing and will only be tested when they are symptomatic or found to be a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or if required by a medical professional. Unvaccinated players will be required to quarantine for seven days if they are a close contact.
If a vaccinated player is a close contact they will not have to quarantine but are subject to daily rapid testing for seven days. They can still access team facilities, participate in team functions and interact with other players as long as they exhibit no symptoms, test negative and follow all the team's safety measures.
Will unvaccinated players lose money for games they are forced to miss?
The league and players association have come to an agreement that an unvaccinated player who misses a game due to a local vaccine mandate will be docked 1/91.6th of his salary.