Last week, commissioner Adam Silver revealed the NBA was considering making changes to their health and safety protocols in the face of widespread player absences.

Today, one of those changes has indeed been implemented. Now vaccinated players will no longer have to sit out for ten days before being allowed to return. That timeline has shortened to six days, with some other options to test out early still in place as well.

Via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

Vaccinated NBA players and coaches can now clear quarantine after six days if COVID-19 testing data shows they’re no longer at risk to be infectious, according to a memo distributed to teams Monday and obtained by ESPN.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association agreed to the changes that’ll replace a protocol that had required league personnel to wait 10 days to test out of quarantine on a return to competition. The new protocol includes players, coaches, staff and referees.

Individuals can still test out of quarantine with two negative tests 24 hours each apart.

As Woj notes, the rise of the omicron variant has thrown a wrench into the league’s planning; Silver said during his ESPN interview with Malika Andrews last week that the variant is responsible for 90% of the league’s new cases. But for vaccinated people the variant poses less severe risks, and the league has plenty of data to make this decision. Shortening from ten days to six should mean players miss fewer games, which the league probably needs to maintain competitive integrity this season.

Plus, as Woj notes, more testing is coming, which is probably going to turn up a lot of asymptomatic cases among vaccinated players:

One-hundred-sixty-six players have entered into the league’s health and safety protocols in the past two weeks, including a single-day season-high of 24 on Sunday. The league started a two-week stretch of increased post-Christmas testing, which is expected to continue to return a significant number of positive tests.

This reduction in quarantine time is expected to immediately impact the status of numerous players who are already in the league’s health and safety protocols.

This should be a good move for everyone involved. That includes the league’s television partners; last week, for example, the league flexed the Indiana Pacers-Miami Heat game into a TNT slot after the original matchup was postponed, leading to one the smallest ESPN/ABC/TNT viewing audience since 2017. (Yes, it was up against NFL games, but still.)

With the league’s national television schedule ramping up after Christmas, being able to get players back faster in the event of a positive test is going to be even more important. The CDC announced today that they’re also making a similar recommendation, and as Silver noted the league is in contact with the CDC and other authorities, they likely knew this was coming:

It seems like the NBA is doing this with a measured approach, too, based on actual science. It’s sad that’s actually noteworthy, but (gesturing around at American society) here we are!


About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.