No one expects many, if any, fans in the stands at the immediate start of the 2020-2021 NBA season, but it won’t be long until teams begin plans to allow fans in a socially distanced fashion and plenty of COVID-19 mitigation–in cooperation with local health officials, of course. The Atlanta Hawks, for instance, plan on allowing in fans to 10 percent of capacity by MLK Day on Jan. 18, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“We just think the right plan is to crawl, walk and then run,” [CEO Steve] Koonin said. “When we talk about crawling, we are planning to open with no fans….Our first few games will just kind of be with friends and family so we can get all of our procedures and all of our protocol correct, because it’s going to be very, very different. And what we want is a great fan experience.”
Player, staff and fan safety is at the forefront of their thinking, per Koonin — masks will be mandatory and fans will be seated so that they’re spread out throughout the arena to account for social distancing. Fans will not be seated very close to the court or behind the players’ bench. The Hawks are still working through some details, but if they decide to allow fans in the lower section, those fans may have to undergo coronavirus testing. Hand sanitizing stations can be found throughout the building, and there may be additional safety measures taken as well, as the Hawks continue to strategize….
“Our local guidelines allow us to have fans,” Koonin said. “We are previewing this with local governments prior to opening, but we’re learning from the Falcons and the University of Georgia and others on protocols and processes to have fans in the stands.”
Also part of the equation: a 134-page COVID-19 protocol guide that still must be approved by players. It’s designed to allow play to continue even in the event of “expected” positive tests.