Dunking on COVID: NBA installs Clear Health Pass tech as arenas refill

After bursting its own bubble for the 2021 season, the NBA has come up with a new protocol to protect players, fans and employees from the spread of COVID-19.

The league and Clear have formed a new dream team, with the latter’s health pass technology now available for use by all NBA venues across the U.S., about one-third of which are already using the company's digital tools to screen fans or employees for compliance with COVID safety guidelines.

The Health Pass technology, a free addition to the existing Clear platform, allows users to add COVID test results and, soon, vaccine records to their accounts for verification before entering a venue, where they may also be prompted to undergo a temperature scan and complete a survey about recent symptoms and travel in accordance with each participating location’s requirements.

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Clear’s identity verification technology is perhaps most recognizable from the company's airport kiosks, where registered travelers can move more quickly through security and customs. With Health Pass, after setting up a Clear account, users can access their linked health information via mobile app upon entering an arena; kiosks will only be used by those venues requiring temperature checks.

In addition to the NBA, the health pass is already in use by several other sports organizations, as well as the state of Hawaii, MGM Resorts, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Founders Table restaurant group and more.

“Trust and transparency are Clear’s No. 1 priority, and with Health Pass, our goal is to get people back to what they love while ensuring they are always in control of their health information,” CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker said in a release. “As states reopen sports venues to fans in the U.S., we are thrilled to team up with the NBA to help create safer fan experiences and reimagine the future of sports.”

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The NBA’s updated attendance policy poses a stark contrast to that of the previous basketball season. After play was suspended in March 2020 because of the pandemic, the teams closest to qualifying for the playoffs set up camp at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando and played the remaining regular season, playoff and championship games in that “bubble” with no fans in attendance.

Those strict measures worked: By the end of the NBA Finals in October, the league reported exactly zero positive COVID tests throughout the bubble’s three-month run. Meanwhile, with players back on their home courts for the 2021 season, daily rapid tests have produced a handful of positive results almost every week.

Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify that arenas aren't required to implement Health Pass technology by the NBA, and that those who do will only use Clear kiosks if they choose to perform temperature checks.