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NBA issues guidelines for fans at games ... but New York rules supersede them

Oklahoma City Thunder v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

COVID-19 is raging around the country, even in New York and New Jersey where infections, hospitalizations and deaths had peaked in the spring before dropping in the summer. Still, the NBA is planning for a December 22 Opening Night and on Wednesday, the league issued detailed safety guidelines for fans at games.

Problem is that state and municipal regulations differ greatly across the 22 jurisdictions where NBA teams play and they supersede any guidelines the league lays down. In Florida, where the Heat and Magic play, there are few regulations on large gatherings while in New York, where the Nets and Knicks play, things are lot stricter.

Indeed, the guidelines were careful to state that fan admittance may only be applicable to “some teams.’’

As Marc Berman writes in the Post, Governor Andrew Cuomo trumps Adam Silver and Cuomo’s regulations are quite specific. “No live audience, fans, or spectators are allowed to attend or permitted to enter any professional sports venue, even if an outdoor venue.” Moreover, new regulations issued Wednesday limit “indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences” to no more than ten people.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report notes that even a barebones TV-only operation could be constrained even without those new rules, that the state still has in place extensive guidelines regarding live sports without audiences, including required face coverings for all, “except for athletes when engaged in training, warming up, or competition and broadcast media personnel when it interferes with the core activity.”

The NBA guidance, where applicable, requires a negative coronavirus test for those sitting within 30 feet of the court but no testing for arena suites at 25 percent capacity or less. And all fans entering the arena would have to complete a “symptom and exposure survey’’ and wear a mask while not eating or drinking.

The Nets, as Brian Lewis reported last week, John Abbamondi, the Nets and Barclays Center CEO, is preparing for the possibility that at some point, fans will be allowed inside. Abbamondi said he wants to be “strategic” in using the time afforded by the NBA shutdown to improve fan experience at the arena — from installing new x-ray machines at security check points to improving the high-end clubs to adding new entrances to the Barclays Center so that crowding can be reduced.

Back in September, in appearances on CNBC and in a Zoom call with Yale students, admitted that getting fans back in the building will be “a little bit tricky” and dependent on both the COVID-19 vaccine and fast, reliable testing, perhaps at arenas.

“We know there is going to be vaccine. You can have rapid testing programs before people coming into the building that at some point is going to be coming back to normal.” Tsai told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Of course, there’s been good news this week from Pfizer on its vaccine and similar news is expected from other drug manufacturers, but schedules and protocols for the rollout of the vaccines are still unsettled or unknown, with most experts believing it will be spring before they will be available to the public.