Opinion: NBA COVID-19 regulations see success, MLB’s do not

Image courtesy of Pixabay
By Erik Galicia

Be like the NBA.

The COVID-19 safety protocols they unveiled in June are based on CDC guidance and involve constant testing for players and staff who live in what has come to be known as “The Bubble.”

Only 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams were invited to the bubble this season, which is located in the Disney World campus in Orlando, Florida. But even the teams’ arrivals in Orlando were subject to an extremely restrictive process.

Participating players and essential staff had to self-isolate before their arrival and continue to quarantine once in Orlando until they tested negative twice, 24 hours apart. Team workouts began July 1 with only eight players at a time allowed in team facilities.

The league’s rules are so comprehensive that they prohibit players from sharing towels and even handling mouthpieces regularly. According to USA Today, the rules even go as far as to prohibit players from “licking hands” on the court.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the plan is the violation reporting hotline, which all participants are encouraged to use. Players caught breaking the rules could be fined or kicked off the campus. 

The 113-page plan has been called over the top, but it is working. 

Do not be like the MLB. 

The league’s 2020 season reflects the country’s response to COVID-19.

The MLB’s 101-page plan is inadequate and relies on an honor system that simply asks participants to make responsible decisions. Like the U.S., the MLB does not require uniformity in its approach to the pandemic as it asks all 30 teams to develop their own COVID-19 action plans in regard to players who test positive and those who are immunocompromised. 

It kind of sounds like the federal government allowing California to do one thing, Arizona to do another, and expecting to navigate the pandemic successfully.

The MLB’s failures were put on display in early August when seven St. Louis Cardinals and six of their staff tested positive for the virus. The outbreak severely disrupted their schedule and they are now expected to play the final 45 games of the regular season in 39 days.

Again, there is no certainty that they will even make it through the season. In fact, the chances of seeing a World Series this year seem to be slimming with each passing day. 

Like in many of our lives during this pandemic, disruptions in the MLB have become routine. Reality and the idea of “when this is over” seem to be social distancing from each other.

But if we took protocols as seriously as the NBA does, we might have been on our way out of quarantine by now. Granted, the NBA saw its fair share of positive tests in July. But Politico reported Aug. 16 that the NBA entered its fourth consecutive week with no positive tests among its 344 active players. Though absolutely nothing is certain these days, the league is well on its way to crowning a champion this season.

How many times do we have to go through this? How many elderly mothers of pandemic-deniers have to contract the virus and die before all the skeptics decide protocols are to be taken seriously?

You want your sports back? Be like the NBA.