NBA: No reason to pause, vaccines are working
BASKETBALL By Reuters | December 22nd 2021 | 4 min read
NBA leadership made the decision that games will go on based on one driving factor: science.
While the NFL shifted testing protocol and the NHL paused games until Monday, commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday there are no plans to halt the NBA schedule thanks to a 97 percent vaccination rate with almost two-thirds of the league boosted.
"We're comfortable with the protocol we're following right now," Silver said, repeating the data points to the conclusion that ‘vaccines' work while allowing that "this is an evolving science."
Positive tests are increasing at an alarming rate. More than 100 players tested positive this month after just 12 positive test results from player testing the previous month.
The NBA is not revisiting a proposal for mandatory vaccination rejected by the players' union, Silver said, but is focusing on encouraging boosters for all eligible players beyond the waiting period.
Several teams have paused their schedule due to a majority of their rosters testing positive. The Toronto Raptors were the latest team Tuesday to be at risk of being shut down before Wednesday's visit to the Chicago Bulls.
"No plans right now to pause the season. We of course looked at all the options," Silver said. "Frankly we're having trouble coming up with what the logic would be pausing right now. We're finding ourselves where we knew we would get to -- that this virus will not be eradicated and we're going to have to live with it."
As of 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, Silver said 90 percent of the current NBA cases are the omicron variant. He said public health officials and other leagues have been consulted constantly as the league shapes its daily assessment of risk.
"It's not just our doctors but the medical community. They're already realizing you can move away from the 10-day protocol when you have players that are vaccinated. It's not just that they're asymptomatic. More importantly, they're not shedding the virus anymore," Silver said.
Several Bulls' players among the 10 shut down by positive tests this month said they felt fine and were essentially asymptomatic. Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan said his only symptom after testing positive was "boredom."
Silver said data points to vaccination and booster compliance as the reasons why.
"We have a lot of data we look at in terms of players and coaches that have gone through the three-shot protocol - two MRNA shots and then a booster. Only a very small number of those people have been breakthrough cases where they turn positive. And essentially, they've been asymptomatic.
"I would just say to our community, to everyone, at least based on the data the NBA has, the boosters are highly effective. We strongly encourage everyone to get them. Our league is around 97 percent vaccinated. We're up to about 65 percent boosted.
"We do think there's an opportunity to potentially lead here. Maybe we can demonstrate there's a way that people can move forward," Silver said. "Again, recognizing this virus unfortunately isn't going anywhere and is going to be part of our lives for the foreseeable future."
There are contingencies at the ready and activation could come quickly if a rash of positive tests takes out multiple teams ahead of the bell weather date on the NBA regular-season calendar: Christmas Day.
"We'd need to talk for a few hours to talk about the contingencies," Silver said. "Beginning from the day we initially shut down the league in March of 2020, we've done nothing but look at contingencies. So of course, we always have those. But at least as of now our plan is to move forward with not only the Christmas Day games but there are roughly 23 games scheduled between now and Christmas."
Silver said every day the NBA gets overnight testing results, looks at rosters and considers what the "right and responsible" thing to do taking all factors into consideration is to continue to play. More intense testing will take place starting after Christmas.
"It's only that we're shifting to a different protocol post-Christmas, and that plan had been in place for several weeks. Same with the rest of the country. I've read something that roughly a third of the country travels for the holiday break."
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