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NBA to Require Players to Wear Sensors to Assist with COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 31, 2020

The court floor and league logo are shown after Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference final between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The NBA will require players and numerous team staff members to wear contact sensors during team-organized activities as part of the league's COVID-19 contact tracing program, per ESPN's Baxter Holmes.

Per Holmes, activities and locations that require wearing the Kinexon SafeZone device include the team plane or bus, practices and "to and from the arena or their home practice facility in connection with team travel."

Testing for the program began Dec. 23, when the majority of the NBA began its 2020-21 season. The two-week trial period will end Jan. 7, when an official rollout will begin.

Per Holmes, a memo the NBA sent to teams states that sensors will mark down "the distance and duration of in-person interactions," which can prove helpful when contact tracing for positive COVID-19 cases.

Contact tracing reviews can also include player and staff interviews as well as reviewing security camera footage at team facilities.

The NBA used this program last season at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where the conclusion of the 2019-20 NBA season was played following a four-and-a-half month suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, that program was done on a voluntary basis. This year, it will be mandatory.

Numerous options for wearing the sensor exist, including lanyards, wristbands or other wearable methods. At least two staff members per team will be tasked with oversight of the system.

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The NBA began its 2020-21 season on Dec. 22 amid the pandemic. The league successfully completed its season without any interruption in the Disney World bubble, but this year will be played in arenas across the country.

One game has been postponed thus far because of COVID-19 concerns: a Dec. 23 matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Houston did not have the required eight players to take part in the game because of positive tests, contact tracing protocols or COVID-19 concerns.

The NBA's Christmas Eve announcement on COVID-19 testing revealed that two of 558 players tested between Dec. 16 and Dec. 24 returned positive results.

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