Vaccinated NBA players can now return sooner

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Vaccinated NBA players and coaches can now clear quarantine after six days if COVID-19 testing data shows they’re no longer at risk to be infectious, according to a memo distributed to teams Monday and obtained by ESPN.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association agreed to the changes that will replace a protocol requiring league personnel to wait 10 days to test out of quarantine on a return to competition. The new protocol includes players, coaches, staff and referees.

Individuals can still test out of quarantine with two negative results 24 hours apart.

NBA players are testing positive and heading into quarantine at an unprecedented rate. One-hundred-seventy-two players have entered into the league’s health and safety protocols in the past two weeks, including a single-day season high of 24 on Sunday. The league started a two-week stretch of increased post-Christmas testing, which is expected to continue to return a significant number of positive tests.

This reduction in quarantine time is expected to immediately impact the status of numerous players who are already in the protocols.

Players are considered to have tested positive on Day Zero, so they would actually be back to play on the seventh day if they meet this new standard. 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, league sources told ESPN.

The decision to shorten the quarantine to six days, sources said, is based on expert research and data — including the league’s own — indicating that no one with a cycle threshold (CT) over 35 has shown to be infectious again after five or six days, sources said.

CT measures how many times a test has to cycle to find the virus in an individual. For example, a 35 CT is fainter than a 20 CT. The NBA and NBPA have relied on data from the league’s own infectious-disease experts, the CDC and models and research in the United Kingdom.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently told ESPN’s Malika Andrews on The NBA Today that the omicron variant was responsible for as much as 90% of the league’s recent COVID cases.

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