As Detroit Pistons have avoided COVID-19, NBA tightens quarantine rules, mask enforcement

Detroit Free Press

Marlowe Alter
| Detroit Free Press

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Cross your fingers.

So far, the Detroit Pistons remain unscathed from the NBA’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, without a player testing positive or forced to quarantine due to contact tracing since the regular season began. And they haven’t had a game canceled yet either.

Tuesday, the league announced stricter procedures to try to mitigate the spread of a disease that has killed more than 375,000 Americans in less than a year. 

For at least the next two weeks, all NBA players, coaches and staff members have to quarantine at their home or hotel in between practices and games. 

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This marked one of several measures the league and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to amid nationwide and league-wide increases in coronavirus cases. The NBA has postponed five games, including four in the past week, because positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing have left teams without the minimum of eight players needed to play in an NBA game.

“We’re very concerned,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday at practice. “We’re very diligent about talking to guys about wearing their mask in the gym, or on the bench.” He said the Pistons are trying to be creative in how they’re doing walk-throughs and shootaround, and some coaches have done things virtually.

“We’ve gotta make sure we stay disciplined, and not fall into some of the things that, unfortunately, these other teams have fallen into,” Casey said. The league has said it expected January to be the worst month of the season in dealing with COVID-19, but hopes better days are ahead, with the vaccines circulating.

The Pistons are scheduled to play the Bucks on Wednesday.

There are many restrictions in place for at least the next two weeks in hopes of reducing the number of infections and contact tracing around the league.

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The NBA had already required participants to wear masks in between practices and games as well for any participants not on the court, but has expanded its requirements with mask use.

Here is the new COVID-19 protocols:

• Activities outside the team environment: For at least the next two weeks, players and staff are required to remain at their residence (when the team is in its home market) except to attend team-related activities at the team facility or arena, exercise outside, perform essential activities, or as a result of extraordinary circumstances. Participants cannot interact with anyone outside of their household, except for family and any personal staff working regularly in the home. When on the road, players and staff are prohibited from leaving their hotel (other than for team activities or emergencies) or interacting with non-team guests at the hotel.

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• Meetings: For at least the next two weeks, any pregame meeting in the locker room is limited to no more than 10 minutes and all attendees must wear a facemask. All other meetings must continue to occur on the court, in a league-approved space, or at the arena in a room large enough to provide for at least 6 feet of distancing. Meeting attendees must wear facemasks.

• On the road: For team flights, teams must create a seating plan so that players whose assigned seats are closest to each other on the bench for games are also closest to each other on the plane. All treatment sessions at a hotel must occur in a large open space with at least 12 feet between stations. Facemasks and face shields are required.

• Game day: Players are prohibited from arriving at the arena more than three hours before tip-off. During the pre- and postgame periods, players must limit interactions to elbow or fist bumps, avoid extended socializing and maintain 6 feet of distance.

• Facemasks: All players must wear facemasks on the bench. Upon exiting the game, and prior to returning to the bench, players can sit in “cool down chairs,” arranged away from the bench, where facemasks are not required. Once a player has cooled down, he must return to his assigned seat and wear a facemask. Players must always wear facemasks in the locker room, during strength and conditioning activities and when traveling with anyone other than a household member. Coaches and other team staff must wear facemasks at all times during games.

• Testing: Any individual who regularly visits the interior of the home of a player or team staff member for a professional purpose must undergo COVID-19 testing twice per week. For any team with a positive player case or high-risk staff member case, the NBA may require players and team staff to undergo five consecutive days of twice-per-day, lab-based testing, in addition to daily point-of-care testing.

USA TODAY Network writers contributed to this report.

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