Lakers superstar LeBron James is reportedly going to miss extended time after entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
The NBA introduced these protocols ahead of the 2020-21 season to limit the spread of COVID-19 as teams returned to their respective home markets after competing at the controlled NBA “bubble” at the Walt Disney World Resort in 2020.
MORE: What are the rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated players?
Ahead of the 2021-22 season, the league made amendments to its health and safety protocols, a direct result of an increase in vaccine availability to all players in the NBA.
What are the NBA’s health and safety protocols? Here is what we know based on various cases of players who have missed time this season.
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NBA health and safety protocols, explained
Why does a player enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols?
Any vaccinated NBA player is placed in the health and safety protocols after testing positive for COVID-19 or receiving an inconclusive COVID-19 test result.
In addition to receiving a positive or inconclusive test result, an unvaccinated player is also placed in the league’s health and safety protocols if they have been deemed to have been exposed to a person who is positive for COVID-19.
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As of the beginning of the 2021-22 season, unvaccinated players were “required to remain at their residence when in their home market” and needed to stay on team hotel properties while on the road. Unvaccinated players are also prohibited to visit settings deemed as “higher risk,” which includes restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and more.
An unvaccinated player in violation of any of the above rules is also placed within the health and safety protocols.
According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, 97 percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated.
How can a player return to play?
If any player tests positive for COVID-19, they must spend a minimum of 10 days away from their team unless they return two negative PCR tests within a 24-hour span.
Unvaccinated players who are flagged for contact tracing must quarantine for seven days and can return to action should they continue to return negative tests. In most cases, vaccinated players who are flagged for contact tracing will not be required to quarantine, however need seven days of more frequent testing.
In addition to receiving clearance from the league, individual teams can implement a return-to-play program to ensure a player is prepared for the cardiovascular demands of getting back on the floor.