NBA players and coaches who are vaccinated can reportedly leave quarantine after six days, down from the previous mandate of 10 days, if testing shows they are no longer at risk to be infectious, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Under the new policy, which was agreed to by the league and the National Basketball Players Association, individuals can still test out of quarantine if they return two negative tests 24 hours apart.
The reported agreement comes the same day officials from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines for Americans who test positive for the coronavirus, shortening isolation periods from 10 days to five days. The C.D.C., as part of its new guidance, also shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.
The C.D.C. said this latest guidance aligns with a growing body evidence which indicates that people with COVID-19 are most infectious in the two days before and the three days after symptoms develop.
In the NBA, players have been testing positive for the virus and heading into quarantine at an unprecedented rate. Over 170 players are believed to have entered the league's protocols over the last two weeks. The NBA is now beginning a two-week stretch of increased testing, in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus following Christmas, which will likely return a significant number of positive tests, given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant throughout the United States.
Omicron has proven to be highly transmissible and less susceptible to vaccines than other variants of the coronavirus, leading to an influx of breakthrough cases — infections among vaccinated peoples — among populations with high vaccination rates like the NBA, though early research continues to suggest this variant may cause milder illness than earlier versions of the coronavirus.
Despite the prevalence of breakthrough cases, vaccines are still expected to be a key tool in preventing the worst outcomes of the virus. The C.D.C. has said that two doses of current vaccines offer meaningful protection against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant.
With booster shots, there is evidence showing vaccines provide strong protection against infection from Omicron too — making them a potential game-changer as hospitals strain against increased patient numbers and staff burnout.
Data shows that boosted individuals continue to clear the virus out of their system at a far more rapid rate than those who aren't, according to Wojnarowski.
The NBA's decision to shorten its quarantine period is expected to have an immediate impact on the players who are currently in the league's health and safety protocols, including several members of the Toronto Raptors, who recently had to deploy a makeshift lineup of reserves and players signed on an emergency basis against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Under the new NBA protocol, according to Wojnarowski, a player is considered to have tested positive on Day Zero of the six-day quarantine. This means a player would be able to play on the seventh day, assuming they meet this new testing standard.