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COVID ROUNDUP

NBA reduces COVID-19 isolation restrictions

Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups was added to the COVID protocol list Monday.Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

NBA players who test positive for COVID-19 now have a quicker path to return to play, after the league completed a significant update to its health and safety protocols on Monday.

The biggest change: Isolation periods for players who test positive may now be significantly shortened — down to six days from what has been the customary 10 — provided those players are asymptomatic and meet other testing standards. Teams were told of the new protocols Monday in a memo sent by the league, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

That memo was sent on the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cut isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus from 10 to five days. CDC officials made that move saying that evidence shows people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

The NBA also relied on data, telling teams that the updated protocols “reflects analysis of testing data that the league and its infectious disease experts and epidemiologists have gathered throughout the pandemic.” The changes were made in agreement with the National Basketball Players Association.

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The NBA has seen coronavirus numbers soar in recent days, even with 97 percent of players vaccinated and at least 65 percent of eligible players boosted against the virus. A pair of coaches — Phoenix’s Monty Williams and Portland’s Chauncey Billups — entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols Monday, according to two people with direct knowledge of those situations.

The individuals spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither team nor coach had addressed the matter publicly. Both situations were first reported by ESPN.

NHL resumes play Tuesday but also postpones three more games

After shutting down for a week, the NHL resumes play Tuesday with three games on the schedule amid hopes that its extended holiday break caused by a rash of positive COVID-19 test results will set the stage for the league to complete an already upended season.

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The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning won’t have either of its top goaltenders or their coach for its game against Montreal. Coach Peter DeBoer is out for the Vegas Golden Knights’ game at Los Angeles. And there are more disquieting signs.

The league on Monday postponed three more games slated for later this week to bring the total to 70 this season. Chicago’s game at Winnipeg scheduled for Wednesday and a home-and-home series Wednesday and Friday between Dallas and Colorado are the latest to be moved because of coronavirus concerns.

As of now, the Winter Classic between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild is still scheduled to be played at Target Field in Minneapolis on Saturday night in keeping with the league’s New Year’s Day tradition.

The Capitals had a long list of new additions to the protocol list by the Capitals, including three of the team’s top six defensemen. The Capitals, scheduled to play Nashville Wednesday, could be without six players currently in protocols, including defensemen Martin Fehervary, Justin Schultz, Nick Jensen, and Dennis Cholowski. The team also announced goalie Vitek Vanecek and forward Daniel Sprong are on the protocols list.

“We have to get up to speed just like everybody else. We’ve been off for quite a few days, but so has everyone else. We’re dealing with some stuff and everyone else is dealing with some stuff also,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said.

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BC among college games postponed

College basketball is returning from the Christmas break with a notably lighter schedule after the pandemic caused several games to get canceled or postponed.

The Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East each announced Monday they were scrapping three games scheduled to take place over the next several days.

That included Florida State at Boston College, No. 2 Duke’s game at Clemson, and Virginia Tech at North Carolina Wednesday night. The Georgia Tech-Syracuse game scheduled for Wednesday was postponed earlier.

Illinois also had its game on Wednesday against Florida A&M wiped out because of positive tests within the Illini’s program.

The Big East cited COVID-19 issues within the Georgetown and St. John’s programs in canceling their game scheduled for Saturday. Marquette’s game at St. John’s on Wednesday and Xavier’s Jan. 4 game at Georgetown also have been called off.

Big East officials said they would attempt to reschedule the games in accordance with the conference’s game cancellation policy.

It wasn’t just on the men’s side that the Big East had to cancel games. Four women’s games were wiped out over the next week as well, with Providence losing its contests at Xavier and Butler. Georgetown lost games against St. John’s and Seton Hall.

Other women’s games canceled this week include No. 21 Iowa scheduled Thursday game at Penn State, which was called off due to positive COVID-19 tests within Penn State’s program. Fourth-ranked Arizona also saw both its games get wiped out this weekend because of COVID-19 issues at Southern Cal and UCLA.

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Central Michigan jumps to Sun Bowl

Given an opportunity to make a postseason upgrade, Central Michigan on Monday jumped from the Arizona Bowl to the more established and lucrative Sun Bowl, which had lost Miami the day before.

The Hurricanes withdrew from the Sun Bowl because of a coronavirus outbreak, and a similar situation Monday led to Boise State pulling out of the Arizona Bowl.

The Arizona Bowl, scheduled for Friday, was canceled Monday night. It became the fourth bowl game called off in the wake of a nationwide spike in coronavirus cases.