The NBA’s fight to “prevent the spread” of the coronavirus amongst their players and staff has just escalated.

As part of their contact tracing protocol, the Association will now require that players and staff wear sensors at all team-organized events away from games.

According to ESPN:

Only Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals — designations outlined in the league’s health and safety protocols that include players and specific staff members, such as coaches — will be required 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.

Not wearing the sensors is subject to discipline, but it’s unclear what the discipline might be. Players are not required to wear the sensors during games or at the team hotel when traveling.

A testing period for the program has been in place since December 23.

“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 explained.

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 reviews will also include interviews of 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.

The NBA did use the sensors when they were playing in “The Bubble” in Orlando, but that was voluntary. Given that players and staff are now outside the bubble and opportunities for infection are greater, this time the sensors will be required.

An anonymous NBA veteran athletic trainer quoted by ESPN highlighted the particular difficulties the Association faces in managing the virus.

“It’s one thing to do that in the NFL, where you’re basically going to the same place for work every day,” the trainer said. “I mean, you have theoretically eight one-game road trips a year [in the NFL]. That’s a far cry from what we do. We’ve got to set it up and get the things charged and distribute them and recollect them and distribute them and recollect them — and think [of the] planes, practices and bus rides and practices in the morning and games at night and a trip to the airport. It’s really something.”

At least two staffers from each team will be tasked with helping manage the Kinexon SafeZone system, but the data logged from the sensors will be shared only with the league and individuals’ teams and not other teams, a league memo states. Information gathered on the sensors will be “de-identified” and not accessible on an individual basis after the 2020-21 season, according to the memo, according to ESPN.

The program is set to be implemented on January 7.

Not wearing the sensors is subject to discipline…sounds like BIG BROTHER. 

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