NBA Executives Reportedly Expect Increase in COVID-19 Cases Through Holiday Season

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 14, 2021

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 20: A detailed view of the NBA logo prior to the game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on January 20, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Celtics 117-109. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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With the postponing of the Chicago Bulls' Tuesday and Thursday games as the backdrop, some executives around the NBA believe there will be an increase in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks.

ESPN's Baxter Holmes reported some around the league expect an uptick as players and staff members gather indoors across the country for the holidays.

"Most of us consider it a matter of when, not if," a Western Conference general manager said when speaking about the potential of the Omicron variant becoming an issue even though it reportedly has not yet been detected in the league.

"This was expected," an Eastern Conference general manager said. "We were told weeks ago, because of the holiday, that there was going to be an uptick—not only in the NBA but in general. So it's not out of the blue."

The World Health Organization recently issued a briefing that said the Omicron variant "is spreading faster than the Delta variant in South Africa where Delta circulation was low, but also appears to spread more quickly than the Delta variant in other countries where the incidence of Delta is high, such as in the United Kingdom," per CNN's Maggie Fox.

Still, another Eastern Conference GM called the situation "so much more manageable than it was a year ago," which is a testament to the number of players who are vaccinated across the league.

According to Holmes, approximately 97 percent of the NBA's players are vaccinated. What's more, the league said eligible players who do not receive a booster vaccine prior to the Dec. 17 deadline will face stricter protocols in an effort to encourage players to further protect themselves.

The concern about the potential for rising numbers comes as COVID-19 impacts a number of sports.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported a Tier 3 staff member of the Washington Football Team became the first person associated with the league to test positive for the Omicron variant. That it came on the same Monday when a record 36 players were placed on the COVID-19 list made it all the more notable.

The NHL also announced the Calgary Flames' games were postponed through at least Thursday because six players and one staff member were placed in the COVID-19 protocol within 24 hours.

As for the NBA, Holmes reported 31 of the 46 players who have entered the league's health and safety protocols this season have done so during the last two weeks. Chicago is the most notable instance with 10 players entering protocols during the past week alone.

One of the Eastern Conference's early contenders is dealing with an outbreak and postponed games at this point. To hear some around the league tell it, the situation could get worse in the coming weeks as the league attempts to complete another season during the pandemic.