NBA updates COVID-19 protocols to allow players, coaches to return sooner

Quarantine guidelines for vaccinated, asymptomatic NBA players, coaches, referees and staff have been shortened from a mandatory 10-day isolation period to six days.

The change comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines to drop the recommended isolation time for people who are asymptomatic and have COVID-19 to five days, a decrease from the previous recommendation of 10 days.

Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKid Rock releases anti-Biden, anti-Fauci single with a 'Let's go, Brandon' chorus Fauci: Omicron-specific vaccines 'prudent' but may be unnecessary Conservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul MORE, the government's leading infectious disease expert, said the change would allow people to return to work more quickly.

The new NBA rules were released in a memo obtained by ESPN on Monday, and now allow individuals who are no longer symptomatic and meet testing criteria to return six days after their first reported positive test or close contact with the coronavirus. 

The NBA has been rocked by the omicron variant, which has forced the postponement of numerous games as teams scramble to put a team on the floor. Evert starter on some teams has been absent at the same time because of COVID-19.

Individuals can also test out of quarantine with two negative COVID-19 tests taken 24 hours apart, a prior rule that the NBA is keeping in place, ESPN reported.

The NBA's decision was based on data from the league and other sources showing that people with a cycle threshold of 35 are not infectious again after five or six days. A cycle threshold measures how much of the virus an infected person has in their body. The lower the number, the more infectious the person is. A person usually has a threshold of below 30 or even lower than 20 after first testing positive for the virus.

The updated guidelines allow NBA players, staff and coaches to return to the court more quickly after coming into close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual or testing positive for the coronavirus.

The NBA has been badly hit by the omicron variant, even though 97 percent of players are vaccinated and more than 60 percent have had a booster shot. Vaccinations and boosters have been recommended, as they reduce the chances of severe cases of COVID-19 that can lead to death or hospitalization.

The CDC has estimated that the death rate for unvaccinated people is 14 times higher than that for vaccinated people from COVID-19.

ESPN reported that 214 NBA players had entered the league's protocols for health and safety as of Monday afternoon. This month alone, nine games were postponed because players had entered the protocols, according to NBA.com.