Report: NBA to require players to wear sensors at team activities to help contact tracing

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Intense contact tracing — something done through much of the globe to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, although it was limited in the United States — is one of the hallmarks of the NBA’s health and safety guidelines for this season. For example, with the Bulls right now, forward Chandler Hutchinson has tested positive for the virus, but three other players — Lauri Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky, and Ryan Arcidiaconoare in quarantine and have missed games due to contact tracing.

Now the league is about to take the next step and have players wear sensors at team activities to help contact tracing, Baxter Holmes reports at ESPN.

Only Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals — designations outlined in the league’s health and safety protocols that include players and specific staff members, such as coaches — will be required to wear Kinexon SafeZone contact sensor devices on the team plane, the team bus, during practices and to and from the arena or their home practice facility in connection with team travel, the memo states…

The sensors do not record GPS location and will activate when coming within close proximity, which is defined as 6 feet, to another person wearing one — a point that health officials across the NBA emphasized to quell concerns about whether individual movements would be monitored. It is expected that the “proximity alarm” feature on the devices, which was active in the Orlando, Florida, bubble, will be disabled this season.

The league has said there would be discipline for players or staff who do not wear the sensors but did not specify what that punishment would be, according to the report.

The NFL has used the sensors during its season, and this was negotiated with the NBA players’ union heading into the NBA season.  The players and staff do not have to wear the sensors on their personal time.

Players and staff also will continue to be tested daily.

Considering the amount of travel in an NBA season, this is a pretty massive undertaking. If it works, it can help identify who needs to be quarantined in the event someone (player or staff) tests positive, and it can help remove some of the “was he or wasn’t he exposed” guesswork, but there are going to be issues with the program.

The program rolls out Jan. 7, and you can be sure we will hear more about it down the line.