NBA players are set to officially return to team facilities this week and staggered testing for COVID-19 for all players and staff members is set to get started on Tuesday. With the league’s future make-shift home in Orlando inside a state that is seeing cases of the coronavirus spiking higher now more than ever, there is concern that the league’s plan to resume 2019-2020 season could be over before it truly even gets to begin.
Once tests results from players around the league begin to come in later this week, there are 100% going to be positive tests all around the league. Surely a few of them will be very notable players, perhaps even some coaches.
Positive tests on June 25th do not mean NBA games can’t be played on July 30th. They don’t even mean teams can’t travel to Orlando on July 7th.
There really isn’t anything the league could have done to assure 0 positive tests when players will all be coming back from various parts of the country and even the world. That was just the players being regular people like us and handling this situation like everyone else. What the NBA can do is do everything possible to make sure there are as few cases as possible once they are the ones in charge of setting conditions for teams. They’re certainly doing that with their insanely detailed plans for the “bubble” at Disney World and then at team facilities in the two or so weeks before teams travel to Orlando.
Teams can have four players June 23-30 at facility; 8 players in facility July 1-9. From there, teams will leave for Orlando and full training camps a https://t.co/LKRixEcfOy
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2020
Seemingly, the entire team will not be together at once until all players have registered multiple negative tests in a short period once they arrive/quarantine in their hotel rooms in Disney World. So multiple weeks of players and staff routinely being tested with limitations on how they’re able to work with each other.
There has been a lot of criticism about how the Disney staff will not be under as strict quarantine/bubble-living rules as the NBA players. While yes, that idea itself is a bit troubling, further reading reveals that these things will be tightly controlled. In a piece by ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Baxter Holmes from Saturday night, some comforting details were revealed about how the staff will have incredibly limited interaction with the players at the hotels, if any at all:
“Disney will assign staff to specific hotels rather than having them rotate between hotels, the document states. They will service rooms only once per week and only when players and staff are not present in those rooms. Disney staff will wear personal protective equipment, including masks, and maintain social distancing if they are ever in the same space with NBA personnel, the guidelines state.”
So these staff members won’t be just hopping from hotel to hotel. They’ll only be in there once a week and the player won’t be in the room. While it’s not perfect, it’s definitely about as safe as it could be in any situation dealing with a global pandemic. While even the CDC itself is not concrete on the matter, it is thought that it is less likely to spread COVID-19 from merely touching a surface where virus droplets could be resting. The number one way to spread the virus is close contact with someone infected who sneezes, coughs or merely talks. The only people who NBA personnel will be coming close to will be other NBA personnel who are being tested day in and day out. I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck that staff members will be treated like lepers if NBA personnel is even within 100 yards of them. Maybe that’s wrong, but that’s just probably the way it will be in order to keep these teams safe.
England’s Premier League returned to action this week after being halted for nearly three months. Similar to the NBA, they began their team workouts and regular testing more than a month before their games began. Here are the results of their various rounds of testing:
Round 1 – Six positive after 748 tests. Published on May 19
Round 2 – Two positive after 996 tests. Published on May 23
Round 3 – Four positive after 1008 test. Published May 27
Round 4 – Zero positive after 1130 tests. Published May 30
Round 5 – One positive after 1197 tests. Published June 3
Round 6 – Zero positive after 1195. Published June 6
Round 7 – One positive after 1213 tests. Published June 10
Round 8 – Two positive after 1200 tests. Published June 13
Round 9 – One positive after 1541 tests. Published June 18
Data courtesy of Sky Sports
For what it’s worth, there are 28 players on an active roster and there are 20 teams in the Premier League, so that would equal 560 players being tested each round. Obviously there are plenty of coaches and supporting staff members being tested as well to get to these huge testing totals. As you can see, the number of positives at the beginning was “high” and it steadily went down from there. As the positives went down, one would assume the reason the number of tests went up is because of the number of support staff and eventually media allowed at games/facilities slowly began to increase.
In the final week before games started, one player did test positive. Norwich City midfielder Marco Stiepermann tested positive on the June 10th or 13th round of testing and self-quarantined for seven days before registering two negative tests and being allowed to return to training with the team. He was not on the active roster for the club’s return to action on Friday.
Obviously, England is a smaller country with a much smaller population than the U.S. so its steady decline in COVID-19 cases over the past month is not surprising if they have been responsibly handling the issue by following guidelines. EPL teams are playing in their home stadiums in front of no fans, not in a bubble like the NBA.
I would be singing a different tune if the NBA were forcing players to travel around the country and trusting the hotels in each different city to constantly be meeting all standards when there are varying degrees of handling the virus across our country. Instead, NBA players are headed to one destination on one trip. Where they are headed is Disney World. A resort so huge it is basically its own city. The players will be totally separated from the four theme parks that will be opening back up to the general public in mid-July.
Admittedly, none of this is perfect. Far from it. If you’re the person who’s waiting for a perfect scenario before anything gets going again, your wait may never end.
At this time, I’m more confident that this bubble in Orlando will be completed than I am that any version of a 2020-2021 season will happen. This plan, while totally imperfect, is at least a very detailed way for the league to bite down, swallow hard and finish a few games of the regular season and then fight through the playoffs. As we enter the latter stages of June, this virus has shown basically no signs of slowing down in our country thanks to various political agendas, increased availability in testing and the average American’s inability to simply think about what’s best for people other than themselves.
When the NBA world rightfully freaked out over Rudy Gobert’s positive test back on March 11th, did we really think we’d be even worse off three months later? Well, that’s where we are. Why should anyone be confident that things will be much better in the winter when the NBA tries to stick to its plan of starting the 2020-2021 season? They’re not going to try to play an entire regular season and playoffs in a bubble. Do you think players and owners will just happily agree to money issues surrounding condensing an entire season where no fans are allowed? Don’t think those kind of issues are only specific to baseball.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban even said in an interview with the New York Post this week that he has “every reason to believe the setup we have in Orlando will be safer for our players and travel parties than staying in their respective cities.” Perhaps he’s just saying it as an owner, but there is logic to it. If the league is to salvage their season, they’re 100% safer doing it in the controlled scenario at the Wide World of Sports Complex than they are commuting to games and practices in their own city and then having to fly around the country for road games.
Again, there are going to be positive tests around the league this week. Don’t be the person who throws their hands up in the air and says this restart plan isn’t going to work. Get behind this plan for Orlando and support the league for all of its efforts to make this the safest way possible to proceed for its players. It could be the last NBA basketball we see for a while.
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