NBA says players without booster shot by Dec. 17 will face more testing, other restrictions

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“I’ve gotten the vaccine, I’ve gotten the booster as well,” Karl Anthony-Towns told NBC Sports this week. “I am a fan of the vaccines having seen what COVID has done to my family

“It comes from a place, I don’t want people to go through what I went through.”

The NBA could not mandate vaccines for players, but still about 97% of NBA players are vaccinated, according to the league. It’s unknown how many have gotten the booster shot. However, the league realizes that players may need booster shots to keep this season going on its traditional schedule and with fewer games lost to the virus.

So the NBA is adding an “incentive” for players who get the booster, less game-day testing.

This is not unlike what the NBA did to motivate players to get the vaccine: unvaccinated players faced two tests on game days, could not leave their hotel while on the road, have lockers spaced apart from other players, and have other restrictions. After Thanksgiving, the NBA increased testing around the league, leading to increased positive tests.

Being vaccinated and having the booster makes it less likely that a person contracts COVID, and if there is a breakthrough case vaccinations make it far less likely that person faces severe outcomes such as hospitalization. The booster shot keeps the efficacy of the vaccine high.

Joel Embiid was vaccinated but said the virus still hit him hard. “I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was that bad. So I’m just thankful to be sitting here. I struggled with it, but I’m just glad that I got over it,” he said after returning to the team.