NBA safety protocols include interesting rules: No licking hands on court; ping-pong limited to two players

Say this for the NBA: Its 108-page “health and safety protocols for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season” is extensive, detailed and filled with lots of rules, regulations and requirements.

While the National Basketball Players Association sent a summary of health and safety guidelines, the NBA went into extensive details such as the number of people allowed to play ping-pong at one table.

The NBA plans to resume its season July 30 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. Teams are expected to arrive in the area in early July for workouts, practices and scrimmages.

We examined the document and found 20 noteworthy items:

1. COVID-19 testing

Beginning June 23, each player and essential staff member will take a PCR and antibody test. PCR testing will be repeated every other day, and antibody testing will be repeated if there is a positive test. A team physician must immediately notify any individual who returns a positive test result. An individual who returns a positive PCR test result must self-isolate and refrain from training for at least two weeks.

2. Report violations via hotline

“All campus participants are strongly encouraged to report any potential or actual violation of the Protocols by any individual to the league office … or may report anonymously through a hotline that the NBA is establishing,” according to the document.

3. Basketball cleaning guidelines

After each individual workout, team staff will have to clean the basketball using dish detergent mixed with a gallon of water, wiping down in a clean towel, wiping down the basketball with just water, allowing the basketball to air dry, then spraying with a disinfectant.

4. Disney employees are 'cast members'

That’s a catch-all term for Disney employees. It doesn’t mean they’re in a cast in the specific theatrical sense, but in the larger sense, employees are putting on a show for guests.

5. Proximity alarms

Players “will also be given the option to wear the proximity alarm device, which will set off an audio alert when the person is within six feet of another person for more than five seconds. … the proximity alarm will not collect data on the player’s movement or location. Proximity alarm devices do not record GPS locations.”

6. Carry your own golf clubs

Players are allowed to golf while on campus, but if they think Danny Noonan will carry their clubs, think again. No caddies allowed.

7. Keep ping-pong games to two players

No doubles ping-pong allowed “so they can maintain six feet of distance from each other.”

8. No pets

However, the NBA and NBPA will discuss requests to bring service animals onto the campus.

9. No testing for recreational drugs

The league will test for performance-enhancing drugs and diuretics but not recreational drugs.

10. Helping the community

The NBA and Quest are partnering with the National Urban League to provide free coronavirus testing for people in the team’s city. Interested teams are asked to consult with local public health officials.

11. Wear the MagicBand

Everyone inside the bubble and on the NBA campus must wear a Disney MagicBand, which provides access to hotel rooms and allows users to buy food and merchandise. Think of it as a hotel room key card, credit card and access badge all in one.

12. Multiple questionnaires, documents

Most, if not everyone, will have to answer questions, including a 36-question medical health history (have you or anyone in your household been tested for COVID-19? Do you have moderate to severe asthma?) that must be signed and dated by a physician. Also, there is a five-question symptom and exposure document that must be completed daily. 

13. Cooperation is required

Any player who fails or refuses “to comply with Protocols may subject a player to disciplinary action by the NBA or his team (but not both) … which may include a warning, fine, suspension and/or removal from the campus.”

14. Access for those not staying on campus

NBA owners/governors and select team executives may be present for games and potentially open practices but “are prohibited from coming in close contact with Tier 1 or Tier 2 Personnel” such as players, coaches, referees, team security, team/league public relations staffers, ESPN staffers, NBPA staff and media.

15. Grooming rules

Appointments for haircuts, manicures and pedicures will be staggered.

16. Avoid gross habits on the court

No spitting or clearing nose on the court; wiping the ball with jersey; licking hands (and touching other items such as shoes or the basketball); playing with or unnecessarily touching mouthguard (and touching other items.)

17. Size of traveling party

Each team’s traveling party will be limited to 34 people, which may include between 13 to 17 players. Teams can have a maximum of 15 players and two two-way players. Each team can bring an additional two staff members following every round of the playoffs. The traveling party will also include at least one athletic trainer, one strength and conditioning coach, one equipment manager and one team security staff member.

18. Yale study

The NBA is asking for volunteers among players and essential staff to participate in a study for researchers with the Yale School of Public Health. Researchers hope to develop a saliva-based test for the coronavirus by validating a cost-effective, noninvasive and rapid testing procedure. The results of this study could influence return-to-work programs, bring broader testing to underserved populations and inform the NBA’s testing strategy for the remainder of the 2019-20 season and beyond.

19. Leaving campus

The league will not forbid anyone from leaving the campus. But NBA security will monitor who leaves and enters the campus. Any person who re-enters campus must take a nasal swab test, then spend days in quarantine in a hotel room. That person’s pay will be deducted for the days they are in quarantine unless that person received prior league approval for medical reasons, birth of a child, death of a family member or to attend a previously scheduled family wedding.

20. Food/beverages

Disney will provide a culinary crew for each team “to help create individualized team menus, support team dietary needs and ensure health and safety guidelines are followed.” Disney restaurants will also be available to those on campus, and room service will be available. Off-campus food delivery is an option as long as food is prepared by a player’s personnel chef who is following strict Food and Drug Administration guidelines and has signed a document certifying that he or she “is engaged in essential activities outside the chef’s residence in Orlando.”

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