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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Column: COVID-19 Surge Wounds Sports World as Leagues Try to Keep Up With Updated Protocols Amid Omicron Option

Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan returned to off-hours zooms Thursday, reminiscing about the days of last season when teleconferencing was the only way reporters could communicate with coaches and players.

After two transfers this week due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Bulls had little Billy better than nothing.

Of course, this won’t be the last time an NBA team has decided to keep coaches and players away from the media, and we’ll likely hear the familiar 2020 refrain – “over caution” – more often in the coming weeks. …

The latest surge in COVID-19 and uncertainty over the omicron option is likely to bring more chaos to the sport in late 2021 and early 22.

What’s the difference in a month. On November 14, at the Bulls vs. Los Angeles Clippers match at the Staples Center, the seats in the media row were so close together that we could barely move without bumping into our shoulders. We were able to interview Donovan and DeMar DeRosan from a few feet away after the game while the reporters were wearing masks and Donovan and DeRosan weren’t.

Nobody seems too worried.

But here’s how quickly things can change. Our hopes for a “return to normal life” in 2021 were justified, but in recent days the situation will roll back.

From empty stadiums last winter to a gradual increase in capacity in the spring to 100% allowed by summer, we seemed to have overcome our COVID-19 fears and felt like we would never go back. As long as we are fully vaccinated, socially distanced, and wear masks, the risk of contracting COVID-19 will be reduced.

We were wrong, of course, and now the news of positive test scores for players and coaches is so widespread that it is causing more delays and forcing leagues to update their protocols.

Saturday’s DePaul-Northwestern Evanston men’s basketball game was one of several college games canceled after testing positive for COVID-19 in the Blue Demons program, and on Thursday the NBA and the National Basketball Association were in the process of introducing mandatory daily testing of players and coaches, starting since Friday, according to the Associated Press. Previously fully vaccinated players did not need daily testing.

“I have a feeling that we can go back to what we did last year, which was clearly not fun,” Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday night. “But we have to go through the season, so I think it’s a sacrifice.”

After avoiding postponing games this season, the NBA finally pardoned the Bulls last week, despite the fact that there were at least eight players in the game. They plan to play Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers at United Center, but who knows?

Likewise, the Brooklyn Nets had just eight players available Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors after James Harden and several others went into health and safety protocols. The Nets beat the Raptors in overtime, although it helps when one of the available players is Kevin Durant, the NBA’s top scorer.

Delays are likely to become more common. Is eight players enough to play in an NBA match, or is postponement the best option?

“I think the league is trying to do everything it can to play the games and keep the teams safe and healthy,” Donovan said Thursday. “I don’t know which number will be correct to say that this team should play or this team should not play. Of course, we were hit hard by this and we lost a lot of players. Other teams suffered a little, but not so much. And I’ve always said this: when you lose key players from your team, it definitely affects you.

“To be honest, a lot of what’s happening is the decisions the league makes based on information they probably get from the CDC, medical experts, about how we need to develop and move forward, and whether it shouldn’t be worth anything. put off or teams must keep playing.

“I am not really involved in these conversations, so I cannot comment on this, other than the fact that with the surge that is happening right now, I think the league is probably in the process of figuring out how they are going to test everyone else in the league. And of course, as you do more of these tests, you will meet more guys who test positive. ”

About 33 players, including 10 Bulls, featured on the league’s OSH records on Wednesday. And due to the recent surge, some teams are considering changing their attendance protocols. On Wednesday, Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Raptors announced that they will again cap traffic to 50%.

Is closing the league a viable option? ESPN said Thursday that Premier League teams are pushing for games to be suspended until the beginning of the second week of January. Meanwhile, NBA stars including Harden, Milwaukee Bucks center Giannis Antetokunmpo and Zach LaVine, NFL stars including Cleveland quarterback Brown Baker Mayfield and Rams receiver Odell Beckham, and NHL stars such as Patrice Bergeron were out of reach. games after testing positive this week.

Fans who have paid high ticket prices to watch their teams play will not see some of their favorite players, albeit without a price cut. Teams that may be on the verge of reaching the playoffs may lose by the end of the season due to the fact that they are now playing in a reduced composition.

Even if the Bulls return to play Sunday against the Lakers, they will have little training time behind them. Will this be a fair match, or is it better to postpone and wait for the Bulls to recover?

Meanwhile, NFL teams are stretching without some of their key players. Could the loss of Mayfield this weekend affect the AFC playoff race?

Each day brings a new wrinkle to the ongoing challenge of the sports world to respond to the latest news about COVID-19.

The only thing we learned from 2021 is that the long-awaited “return to normalcy” was just wishful thinking.

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