In its bid to hasten the resumption of the 2020 PBA season, all teams in the league have agreed to an increased battery of Chinese coronavirus tests for all players and personnel.
Additionally, the PBA clubs have assured the Philippine government that they will cover all medical costs for any employees who test positive for COVID-19.
This goes above and beyond the recent proposal put forth by the league to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), and it is the result of this past weekend’s PBA board meeting.
Per PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial:
“The teams will take care of the hospital bills once a player gets infected with COVID-19. This is like when a player gets injured, so there’s really no need for any insurance.”
Right now, the IATF is looking to allow pro basketball and football teams in the islands to resume their practices and workouts (with strict guidelines in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus), though scrimmages are not yet authorized.
Practices will consist of a maximum of four players and one coach per facility at any given time, and sessions are limited to one hour before the next group takes over. Players will train on alternate days.
These mandates also include travel restrictions for players.
For example, PBA players may only travel during the ongoing lockdown to get from their homes to their approved practice facilities and back again.
Further, they cannot bring visitors to practices, nor can they put up visitors in their homes. This is effectively a quarantine “work release” program. Players must report any travel outside the home – and outside the above rubric – to team authorities.
Presumably, such a plan would allow the PBA to start sometime in August.
It is unclear which conferences would still be held, as a full slate of games across all three conferences (Philippine Cup, Commissioner’s Cup, Governors’ Cup) would likely eat into the offseason and make starting on time in 2021 a difficulty – assuming the coronavirus outbreak is meaningfully curtailed by then.
So, aside from footing the bill for the treatment for any players or employees that test positive for COVID-19, what else happens in case any personnel actually catch the flu-like disease?
According to the Manila Bulletin, in that case, a concept known as “cluster isolation” will be initiated.
Should any player test positive, that player – and the other three members of their practice group (plus the coach involved) – would be immediately isolated from the facility and other players for a minimum of two weeks.
“The board has already agreed that if something goes wrong, just a cluster or batch will stop. The whole team will not need to. … But if there are two or three examples, but in different clusters, that’s a different story.”
The IATF and the Philippine Games and Amusements Board (GAB) will have the ultimate say on when the PBA can resume practices and scrimmages, though if all goes according to plan and the league’s system actually works to stifle the spread of the disease, the August timeline to restart league play seems realistic barring a catastrophic “second wave.”
If that happens, all bets are off.
Except, of course, at online offshore sportsbooks, where you can wager on simulated basketball, the NBA 2K League, and other eSports events, as well as other sporting markets worldwide.