After previously being advised by the NBA not to test asymptomatic players for COVID-19, teams have now been informed by the league that they’ll be permitted to administer those tests — as long as they’re in areas where testing is readily available to at-risk health care workers, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Magic, for instance, have been granted written authorization from the Orange County Department of Health – as well as approval from the NBA – to test their players and staffers for the coronavirus, whether or not they’re exhibiting symptoms, a spokesperson confirmed. A Magic official told Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link) today that May 12 is the most likely target date for the team to reopen its practice facility.
“We have been assured we are not taking any tests from healthcare workers, first responders, or anyone whether they are experiencing symptoms or asymptomatic,” the Magic told Woj in a statement (Twitter link). “As we’ve been told, the general public in our community can go to numerous locations to receive a coronavirus test.”
The Lakers and Clippers are among the other clubs that are expected to receive permission soon from the NBA and local health authorities to conduct coronavirus tests on players entering their facilities, according to Wojnarowski.
Although the NBA is allowing teams to reopen their practice facilities, the league has been reluctant to ramp up testing for its players and staffers yet. When the NBA suspended its season in March, multiple teams were able to conduct immediate tests on dozens of asymptomatic players and staffers, drawing criticism from politicians who were dealing with local shortages.
The NBA doesn’t want to create the impression that the league is receiving preferential treatment, which is why any teams in municipalities with testing shortages still won’t be permitted to test asymptomatic players for now.
However, if an increasing number of teams get the go-ahead to move forward with testing asymptomatic individuals, that will represent a crucial step forward for the NBA. If the league wants to resume its 2019/20 season, it will need access to thousands – and potentially tens of thousands – of tests to regularly administer them to players, staffers, and other officials.
As long as those tests still aren’t readily available for asymptomatic people in many areas of the country, it would be a bad look for the NBA to procure them in massive quantities. But if and when shortages are no longer a concern, that would no longer be a roadblock for a potential return to play.