The NBA and National Basketball Players Association have agreed to changes to the health and safety protocols that offer expanded benefits for those who have been fully vaccinated, according to a memo sent to teams Wednesday night that was reviewed by ESPN.
Specifically, the changes to the protocols apply to any person who is "two weeks past their final dose and any team where 85% of players and 85% of staff are fully vaccinated," the memo states.
Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer have to quarantine following exposure to COVID-19; can have friends, family and others visit at home and on the road without having them test or register with the team; and can dine outdoors at restaurants, among other eased restrictions.
Fully vaccinated teams will no longer have to wear masks at the practice facility; have more flexibility to leave the team hotel on the road; and can dine indoors or outdoors at restaurants, among other eased restrictions.
These benefits follow recent guidelines announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for those who have been fully vaccinated. One of the guidelines the CDC announced was that fully vaccinated individuals can gather indoors without wearing a mask.
One Western Conference head athletic trainer, echoing others in health circles around the league, said there is hope that the new benefits will help serve as a motivating factor for those who might be considering being vaccinated. But that head athletic trainer also urged caution and said that just because someone has been vaccinated, they will still need to act responsibly -- and that it's expected that daily COVID-19 tests will still be part of the NBA routine.
It's not yet clear how many individuals around the league have been vaccinated, but league sources have said that a number of team athletic training officials, coaches and other team staffers who qualify in the specific states their teams reside in have received at least their first dose, if not their second.
ESPN reported Sunday that dozens of eligible members of the New Orleans Pelicans, including multiple players, received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after the Louisiana governor expanded the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility.
In terms of players outside the Pelicans, league sources said that only a small number of players have so far received a vaccine dose and that those who did so have preexisting conditions.