NBA Covid-19 Updates: NBA to require players to wear sensors as part of contact tracing

NBA Covid-19 Updates: The NBA is planning to roll out a contact tracing program by demanding players and many team staffers to wear sensor devices during all team-organized activities outside of games starting Jan. 7, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN.

Only Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals — indications outlined in the league’s health and safety obligations that involve players and specific staff members, such as coaches will be asked to wear Kinexon SafeZone contact sensor devices on the team plane, the team bus, during practices and to and from the arena or their home practice facility in connection with team travel, the memo states.

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A testing phase for the program began on Dec. 23 and is expected to be implemented on Jan. 7, according to ESPN.

The sensors do not record GPS location and will initiate only when they come in close vicinity, which is defined as 6 feet, to another person wearing one — a point that health officials across the NBA indicated to suppress attention about whether specific movements would be observed.

What will the sensors do?

The memo states that the sensors will record “the distance and duration of in-person interactions” with others who are wearing a sensor, which the NBA believes will aid in its contact tracing reviews in instances of positive coronavirus cases.

Such studies will also involve discussions with players and staff members, as well as potentially examining camera footage at team facilities, to better understand who might have been exposed to an infected individual.

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One health official with direct knowledge of the situation noted that the sensors will help in resolving which players or staff might need to be isolated if the situation arises.

We don’t want to have to needlessly quarantine someone that doesn’t need to be,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

This is a contributed effort of the NBA, the players’ union, and pharmaceutical officials, and officials included believe it should serve in a proactive way to recognize conditions where staff segments and players may be communicating in imminent proximity on a regular basis that could prove dangerous should an infection occur.

We’re hopeful that it can also be used not only when there are cases, but proactively to try to reduce contacts even before there are cases,” NBA senior vice president David Weiss, who has worked alongside players’ union officials and medical experts throughout the pandemic, told ESPN.

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One veteran NBA head athletic trainer described the program as “ambitious” and underscored the differences between NFL and NBA teams employing the sensors.