What the NBA Can Teach Us About Reopening Safely

A new document reveals extremely restrictive guidelines for the new season

Yasmin Tayag
Elemental
Published in
4 min readJun 17, 2020

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Credit: Augustas Cetkauskas / EyeEm / Getty Images

On Tuesday, the NBA sent players a 100-page document describing intricately detailed plans for reopening the league amid the coronavirus pandemic. Players who agree to its terms will resume the 2019–2020 season on July 30 while isolating in the greatest place on Earth: Disney World.

The plans outlined in the document, which Tim Bontemps wrote about extensively at ESPN, are extremely restrictive. And that’s the point: Protecting the health of players and staff is the utmost priority since the league and the industry surrounding it can’t exist without them. Meanwhile, new Covid-19 cases are spiking across the U.S. as a result of rushed and poorly thought-out reopening schemes meant to jump-start the economy.

Right now, there’s a lot government officials can learn from the NBA.

In addition to detailing rules restricting players (and reporters) within the NBA “bubble,” the document provides action plans for a wide range of potential scenarios. Most important, and indicative of how seriously the NBA seems to be taking its efforts, is what happens when a player tests positive. That person will be immediately placed into an “isolation room” for 14 days and tested regularly. Only when they test negative twice within 24 hours — a precautionary measure against false positive results — will they be allowed to leave isolation. They won’t be quarantined after that, but before they play again they’ll have to wait another two weeks before undergoing a cardiac screening, in accordance with CDC guidelines. It appears that the NBA is concerned about the potential health effects of Covid-19 on the heart and is taking every precaution to protect its players before they start exercising again.

The public health protocols that the NBA is doubling down on include regular diagnostic testing (ESPN interprets this as “less than daily”), contact tracing, and aggressive quarantining.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying everyone who a sick person has been in contact with and quarantining them as needed to help stop the spread of a disease. The NBA document says it will use “video technology” to help track…

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Yasmin Tayag
Elemental

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.