NBA to players: Avoid high-fives as virus concern grows

Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) high-fives fans after their 108-97 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers for Game 4 of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday, June 10, 2016. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) (P

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.

Portland guard CJ McCollum said in a tweet on Saturday that he is taking the matter seriously.

“Make sure y’all washing y’all hands with soap for 20 or more seconds & covering ya mouths when you cough,” McCollum tweeted. “I am officially taking a break from signing autographs until further notice.”

McCollum has tweeted or retweeted several virus-related posts since.

“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.