NBA

NBA to Players: Avoid High-fives as Virus Concern Grows

In the U.S., the virus has been blamed for six deaths, all in Washington state

The NBA has told players to avoid high-fiving fans and strangers and avoid taking any item for autographs, the league’s latest response in its ongoing monitoring of the coronavirus crisis that has spread to most corners of the planet.

The league, in a memo sent to teams on Sunday and obtained Monday by The Associated Press, offered 10 recommendations to players with hopes of decreasing risks of getting the virus — among them, not taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers.

The NBA also told teams that it is consulting “with infectious disease experts, including the Centers for Disease Control” and infectious disease researchers at Columbia University in New York.

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“We are also in regular communication with each other, NBA teams including team physicians and athletic trainers, other professional sports leagues, and of course, many of you,” the league wrote in its memo to teams, their physicians and athletic training staffs. ESPN first reported on the contents of the memo.

Some players are already heeding the advice.

“Corona," Bobby Portis of the New York Knicks said as he offered some fist-bump greetings on Monday night before his team faced the Houston Rockets.

Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat said he wasn't necessarily worried or thinking about avoiding high-fives.

“I don't think about any of that," Butler said. “I'm still going to be who I am. We're still going to be who we are."

Portland guard CJ McCollum said in a tweet on Saturday that he is taking the matter seriously, saying he is “officially taking a break from signing autographs until further notice.”

“You just have to be careful," McCollum said Monday night in Orlando. “”Obviously it's affecting people, especially people who are displaying weaker immune systems and people over 60. You've got to check yourself and wash your hands, try to reduce contact with outsiders and outside germs."

McCollum has tweeted or retweeted several virus-related posts in the last couple days.

“The coronavirus remains a situation with the potential to change rapidly — the NBA and the Players Association will continue to work with leading experts and team physicians to provide up-to-date information and recommended practices that should be followed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” the league said in the memo.

Many of the tips offered by the NBA fell under common-sense level of best practices when it comes to illness prevention: avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when feeling ill, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces. The league also suggested players make sure they “are up to date with all routine vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.”

The worldwide death toll topped 3,000 on Monday, and the number of those infected rose to about 89,000 in 70 countries on every continent but Antarctica. In the U.S., the virus has been blamed for six deaths, all in Washington state.

“Containment is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

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AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York and AP freelance writer Dick Scanlon in Orlando, Florida contributed to this report.

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