Coronavirus is running rampant through the NBA.
Which has led to scrutiny on the league’s more-lenient testing regimen this season.
Privately, several team executives and team health officials believed not testing everyone was financially motivated, though league officials have disputed this characterization to ESPN. For now, when a team has a positive case, that team is encouraged — but not required — to test all players and potentially impacted staff to see how far the virus has spread; the same is recommended when a team faces another team that has detected a positive test.
Other teams privately argue that not all teams have followed the protocols as strictly as others, or that not all teams test as often as others. Another GM said that if all teams were united heading into the Orlando bubble last year, the dynamics have now changed: Every team is out for themselves, trying to save their own seasons, fielding subpar ghost teams.
But there also other real benefits to ending burdensome daily testing for vaccinated players.
Vaccinations are, by far, the best method for fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Vaccinated people are less likely to contract, spread and suffer severe outcomes from coronavirus. Asymptomatic vaccinated people were believed to not spread coronavirus. Despite NBA players being perceived to be highly reluctant about getting vaccinated, about 97% of them are now vaccinated. The carrot of avoiding frequent testing – a return toward normalcy – almost certainly factored.
Perhaps, the situation has changed as the virus mutates, omicron the current dominant variant. Protocols should be flexible and reexamined. The league and players’ union recently agreed to increased testing. The 10-day quarantine for positive tests is also likely to be reduced.
But starting the season with vaccinated players forgoing daily testing was not some totally irresponsible decision safety-wise.
There are also issues of fairness within sports. All teams should face the same testing requirements, considering positive tests sideline players. There shouldn’t be such flexible incentive to avoiding detection of cases.