Significant risks await the NBA as it prepares to bring roughly 1,500 people into a bubble environment in Orlando, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN. He talks to several health experts who assess the possibility of keeping players and staff members safe from the coronavirus long enough to finish the season.
“They are going to see things on the ground they did not expect,” said Steven Pergam, an infectious disease specialist and an associate professor at the University of Washington. “The main potential weak point is how (Walt Disney World) employees interact with (NBA) staff,” adds Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “But you can manage it in ways that do not create a whole lot of risk.”
The health professionals agree that frequent testing will be important to stave off a potential widespread outbreak. They also state that even if a player contracts COVID-19, there’s no guarantee it will be passed on through games or practices.
“The person has to be at just the right point in the infection where they are very contagious and the viral load is very high,” explains Abraar Karan, a physician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Given the health risks, Lowe questions the decision to bring the Suns and Wizards into the bubble environment. Both teams face long odds to even reach a play-in game, and the additional personnel increases the chances of someone contracting the virus. Lowe claims the decision to include the two teams was financial, creating more games, which brings in more revenue.
There’s more surrounding the NBA’s restart:
- Many of the league’s top stars participated in a conference call Friday where objections were raised to the plan to resume the season. However, LeBron James was notably absent, and Sam Amick of The Athletic explains it’s because James believes he can play basketball and advocate for social change at the same time. “Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us,” James told Jonathan Martin of The New York Times this week. “We feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door. How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.”
- NBA commissioner Adam Silver has a lot to resolve as he balances strong player sentiment for resuming the season and ending it, states Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Adding to the concern over racial issues is an increase in the coronavirus in Florida, which reported a state-record 2,500 new cases Saturday.
- NBA spokesman Mike Bass told Marc Stein of The New York Times that the league will address the objections raised by players (Twitter link). “We understand the players’ concerns and are working with the Players Association on finding the right balance to address them,” Bass said.