In another week of coronavirus screenings, the NBA cleared all 343 players tested inside the league bubble at Disney World, which, like the ones being used by the WNBA and NHL, appears to be working.
Wednesday’s results marked the third straight week that the NBA and the NBA Players Association reported perfect results. Last week, 344 players were tested, with 346 evaluated the prior week without a positive case.
‘It’s a great example for our country,’ San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Wednesday. ‘Our leader [NBA commissioner Adam Silver] had a vision and was organized. … And the participants, our citizens, had discipline.’
Like the WNBA in Bradenton, Florida, and the NHL in Toronto and Edmonton, the NBA is finishing its coronavirus-interrupted season inside a proverbial bubble to reduce the risk of infection for players and staff. Currently 22 of the league’s 30 teams are finishing the regular season in Orlando to determine playoff seeding with an eye towards awarding a champion in October.
Should an NBA player return a positive result, he will be quarantined until he is cleared to leave isolation under the protocols approved by both the league and union.
But that hasn’t really been a problem for the NBA since two players tested positive back in early July after arriving at the bubble, where fans and all non-essential personnel are prohibited from entering.
Similarly, the NHL made it through its week of tests without a single positive result, and the WNBA bubble — being referred to by players as the ‘wubble’ — appears to be doing fine as well, although the league has yet to release any new data.
Seven WNBA players tested positive between June 25 and July 5 before entering the bubble, and only two initially tested positive afterwards.
‘Once we came out of quarantine, we’ve had no other players test as positive,’ Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said on a conference call on July 22.
‘Obviously we’ll report out if there’s some significant story there but right now, of course, knock on wood every day, things are stable here and no positive tests since we came out of quarantine a couple of weeks ago.’
The cost of restarting the NBA season in a campus environment in an attempt to ensure safety is over $150 million, ESPN reported in early July.
Among the costs to the NBA are daily tests for COVID-19, treatment and quarantine associated with positive tests, and meals, security, transportation, sanitation of facilities including practice gyms and staging of games at three separate arenas.
The NBA has projected a total loss exceeding $1 billion in revenue related to ticket sales by playing games at the isolated, neutral site and without fans present.
‘It comes into play that we feel an obligation to our sport and to the industry to find a new normal,’ NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Time magazine. ‘It doesn’t come into play in terms of dollars and cents because, frankly, it’s not all that economical for us to play on this campus. It’s enormously expensive.’
The NHL has long shown a preference for US expansion but opted for the safety of two hub cities in the Great White North where the pandemic is widely contained.
The Canada/US border remains closed to non-essential travel but for Canadians there are few things more indispensable than hockey.
There was of course nothing sentimental about the NHL’s decision to huddle in Canada but rather a calculated move that has proven astute as the US death toll from COVID-19 recently exceeded 150,000.
Following a four-and-a-half month shutdown, teams have assembled under quarantine bubbles in Toronto (Eastern Conference) and Edmonton (Western Conference), which will also host the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals scheduled to begin on September 20.
Protective fencing has been constructed around each hotel and arena walling off players for the next two months from the general public.
The NHL has said that approximately 100 security guards and ‘health ambassadors’ will be stationed throughout the downtown Toronto bubble keeping players in and unauthorized people out.
‘It is all one big distraction and at the same time, it isn’t,’ said Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour after checking into the team hotel. ‘Once you actually get to the rink, the one time that actually feels normal is when you lace your skates up.’