Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers

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In the wake of a recent uptick in players infected with the coronavirus, including superstars like James Harden and Kevin Durant, the NBA has aggressively bumped its COVID-19 measures to combat the pathogen’s spread and especially to protect its players, staff, and any other person from unnecessarily contracting the bug. This is notable since there is no bubble this season. Therefore, players will begin traveling again for away games as well as being unsupervised when away from the team.

When speaking of the past Disney World bubble’s success to Popular Science, epidemiologist Isaac Weisfuse made sure to point out “the NBA had complete control over not only the teams but anybody that the teams interacted with.” That saw the 2019-2020 NBA season resume from July through October without one player, coach, or staffer being found positive for the virus. OSU sports medicine physician James Borchers drove the point home saying, “When you’re not in a bubble situation, there are all sorts of exposures that you can’t control for: when people are at stores, or they’re at restaurants, who they interact with.”

Per a memo received on Monday by the Associated Press, all active players will now be mandated to start every game with their masks on until they enter to play, and they will be “strongly recommended” to put on their masks again upon returning to the bench. At halftime, the conditions reset, and they are to resume wearing their masks. However, as was the prior case for all inactive players, they must keep their faces masked for the entire game. Similarly, coaches will still need to have their faces shielded when they are on the sidelines.

Players and coaches must now be masked when they are around teams’ other players and coaches away from the game, and if players work with any private specialists outside of the team facility, then their names now have to be reported.

Finally, the maximum number of a team’s travel personnel is also now increased by one, to an allowed count of 46 people, to include a dedicated “protocol officer.” Going forward, it will be this individual’s responsibility to monitor if the new requirements are being upheld, conduct contact tracing, and other safety measures for dealing with coronavirus.