NBA Managed To Get 58 Coronavirus Tests Despite Massive Shortage

Testing kits for the virus have been dangerously scarce, but that didn’t seem to stop NBA players from quickly getting screened

Sebastian Murdock | HUFFPOST

As COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, sweeps across the U.S., testing kits needed to identify the illness have been in dismally short supply. But the NBA seemed to have no problem this week getting 58 testing kits in one day.

On Wednesday, the NBA announced it was suspending its season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The discovery set off a chain of events leading to the dramatic cancellation of a game just before tipoff and a wave of other sports institutions announcing their own season suspensions.

On Thursday, 58 people in Oklahoma ― a group of Utah Jazz players, coaching staff and local journalists ― were tested for the virus. Only one other person, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, was found to have the virus. The Daily Beast was the first to ask how the NBA was able to get its hands on so many tests amid a widespread shortage:

A powerful, wealthy pro sports league flexed the political capital and financial might required to get government officials to spring into action. The unintentional byproduct, though, is another, equally jarring number: 7,617 people in total have been tested for the virus by state labs as of Thursday, and those 58 tests, or a staggering .8 percent, were conducted on employees of one professional basketball team.

Oklahoma Health Commissioner Gary Cox said Thursday that the state currently has the “capacity to run about 100 tests a day.” That means those associated with the NBA got roughly 60 percent of the state’s daily testing, The Daily Beast noted.

There are currently two known active cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma, but that number is expected to go up. Representatives for the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma Department of Health did not immediately respond to questions from HuffPost.

As the situation becomes more alarming, many planned events, concerts and sports seasons have been postponed, rescheduled or canceled to help slow the spread of the virus.

Rudy Gobert tries to make amends for being ‘careless’ about coronavirus with big donation

Rudy Gobert donates $500,000 to arena workers and coronavirus-related services in Utah, Oklahoma and France

Chris Cwik | Yahoo Sports

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is trying to make things right after being “careless.” Gobert — who became the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus — announced a $500,000 donation Saturday. A portion of that donation will go toward making sure part-time arena workers at Vivint Smart Home Arena are compensated while the NBA season is suspended.

Gobert will give $200,000 to Jazz arena workers who will miss out on working games at Vivint Smart Home Arena, where the Jazz play. He will give $100,000 to families in Utah and Oklahoma affected by the virus. Gobert is also donating 100,000 Euros to assist families in France. Gobert is from France.

Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive with coronavirus

Gobert was effectively patient zero among professional sports leagues in the United States. After joking about the virus, Gobert fell ill prior to the Jazz’s Wednesday game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That game was postponed after Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. The NBA reacted to Gobert’s positive test quickly, postponing the season indefinitely.

Rudy Gobert apologized for being ‘careless,’ is trying to make things right

Realizing his mistake, Gobert apologized a few days after news broke he had tested positive. He said he was “careless,” and encouraged people to use him as an example of why the coronavirus should be taken seriously. Saturday’s donation is more of the same for Gobert, who is now using his platform in a positive manner after initially dismissing the virus.

Other NBA stars have joined Rudy Gobert with donations

Gobert is the latest NBA player to donate money to part-time NBA arena workers. Giannis AntetokounmpoBlake Griffin and Zion Williamson are among the NBA players to donate money to those affected by the NBA suspending play. A few team owners, including Mark Cuban, have also agreed to pay team staff for time missed.

Warriors pledge $1M to Chase Center employees affected by coronavirus; Steph Curry’s foundation to help feed out-of-school students

Ali Thanawalla | NBC SPORTS

Joe Lacob and the Warriors aren’t forgetting about the people that make games at Chase Center flow like a well-oiled machine.

The organization announced Friday night that it will contribute $1 million to a disaster relief fund to help pay all part-time and hourly employees while the NBA is suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The last few days have been extremely challenging for all Bay Area citizens as we deal with the hourly changes in this unprecedented situation,” Lacob said in a statement released by the team. “Our players, coaches, ownership and management have been focused on creating a way to assist our part-time employees. We are addressing the potential hardships these hard-working individuals may encounter during this hiatus in the NBA season. While everyone and every business is impacted, those who are fortunate enough to be in a position to help, need to help.”

“The men and women who work our games at Chase Center are critical in providing an incredible game-night experience for our fans, including of course, the popcorn vendors,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said in the statement released by the team. “As players, we wanted to do something, along with our ownership and coaches, to help ease the pain during this time.”

Lacob had indicated earlier in the day that the Warriors would take care of the people hit hardest by the stoppage, and the owner made good on his word.

Chase Center employs more than 1,000 hourly workers, so no games or concerts at the arena means no paychecks. But the Warriors are making sure those vital people don’t have to worry during the pause in the NBA season.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that the suspension could last at least 30 days.

Several NBA teams have pledged to take care of their arena employees. Even a few marquee players — Kevin Love, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zion Williamson and Blake Griffin — each donated $100,000 to help support workers in their respective arenas.

In such an uncertain time, it’s good to see organizations looking out for the people that are so important to their operations.

Coronavirus: Steph Curry’s foundation to help feed out-of-school students

Brian Witt | NBC SPORTS

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted sports figures and everyday people alike.

Steph Curry and the Warriors were sent home after the NBA season was indefinitely suspended Wednesday. On Friday, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) joined many others in doing the same with its students.

There are over 18,000 students within the OUSD that rely on their school for at least two meals per day. With school no longer in session, there is a huge void to fill. Curry and his wife, Ayesha, announced Friday night that they are attempting to help do so.

The Currys, through their foundation, Eat.Learn.Play., are donating to the Alameda Food Bank to help serve the displaced students, and they’re inviting you to join them in the cause.

“We’re trying to do our part,” Steph said. “Hopefully you can join the fight with us and have each other’s backs as we go through this uncertain time in our community.”

Those interested in donating to the cause can do so at:

https://donate.accfb.org/supporting-families

Kevin Love, others pledge to help displaced NBA workers during coronavirus suspension

Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports

The NBA’s decision to suspend the season indefinitely amid the COVID-19 outbreak will leave countless employees out of work across the league.

And with no specific timetable in place for when league plans to start up again, those displaced workers have no idea when they can expect to see a paycheck again — something that will certainly leave families in a tough position.

Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love and several teams across the league, however, are ready to help.

Kevin Love donates $100,000 to Cavs support staff

Love announced on Instagram on Thursday that he was going to donate $100,000 through his foundation to help the team’s support staff and arena staff while they are out of work.

That decision, he said, will hopefully help bring a bit of calm to the unprecedented time in the NBA. 

“Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon,” Love wrote on Instagram, in part. “They affect individuals and society on so many levels, with stigma and xenophobia being just two aspects of the impact of a pandemic outbreak. It’s important to know that those with a mental illness may be vulnerable to the effects of widespread panic and threat. Be kind to one another. Be understanding of their fears, regardless if you don’t feel the same. Be safe and make informed decisions during this time. And I encourage everyone to take care of themselves and reach out to others in need — whether that means supporting your local charities that are canceling events  or checking in on your colleagues and family.”

Several others in the league have pledged to help, too.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban addressed the issue on Wednesday night, almost instantly pledging to create a program for hourly workers at the American Airlines Center.

Hawks owner Tony Ressler agreed to join Cuban in his efforts on Thursday morning, too, and will create a program for the workers at State Farm Arena.  The 76ers made a similar pledge in a statement on Thursday, too.

Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller wrote on Twitter that he was prepared to make sure the support staff was taken care of, even if he has to “pay out of pocket” himself.

Though the disruption may be annoying for them, the players and management in the league will be fine during the break. Thanks to Love, Zeller and others, it sounds like the most impacted will be fine after all.

Hopefully others around the league follow their example shortly, too.

Coronavirus: NBA players’ Twitter reaction to league suspending season

NBC SPORTS

Things changed very quickly in the NBA on Wednesday.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly was expected to announce Thursday that the remainder of the season would be played in empty arenas, but the league instead suspended its season Wednesday night after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the new coronavirus (COVID-19). The player reportedly was Utah center Rudy Gobert, and the Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder game then was suspended.

Current and former NBA players found out about the league’s plan at the same time as everyone else, and their live reactions on Twitter were something to behold.

If the NBA doesn’t resume its season as some around the league reportedly fear, Wednesday could’ve been Vince Carter’s last game. Carter has been a fixture in the league, playing 22 seasons across four decades.

Now, Carter and the rest of the NBA will wait and see what’s next.

NBA suspends season after player tests positive for coronavirus

Jason Owens | Yahoo Sports

The NBA announced on Wednesday that it is suspending its season until further notice amid coronavirus fears.

The announcement arrived shortly after a game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was abruptly postponed.

The extraordinary step is the latest in the United States to limit large gatherings in an effort to stifle the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The news arrives hours after the NCAA announced that its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played without fans in the stands. College basketball conferences are falling in line with their championship tournaments.

Meanwhile, sports organizations and municipalities in the U.S. and around the world have either canceled, postponed or limited fan access to sporting events and social gatherings like concerts and conferences. 

Joke gone wrong: Rudy Gobert rubbed his hands on several microphones at a press conference

ZACH MILLER | USA TODAY SPORTS

On Monday, Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tried to make light of growing coronavirus concerns across the county.

Now, the NBA is suspending the season because he has the virus.

Shortly after news of Gobert’s diagnosis became public, video started circulating around social media of Gobert rubbing his hands all over several microphones during a press conference.

https://twitter.com/DanWeiner/status/1237909108071809030

This wasn’t mindless touching of microphones during a press conference, Gobert clearly stops before leaving the room, making a point of touching all the microphones and laughing as he jogged out of the room

Now every reporter who touched those microphones should be tested for the virus, as will every player who took the court with Gobert.

It’s no wonder why the NBA postponed Thursday night’s Jazz-Thunder game when Gobert was experiencing symptoms, then quickly followed by suspending the season when the test came back positive.

The virus has spread quickly across the United States, with more than 1,200 cases and more than 30 deaths reported nationally. Gobert is the first athlete in a major pro sports league to be diagnosed.

The virus has had a large impact on the sports world, as many college basketball conference tournaments are being contested without fans, and the NCAA announced earlier Wednesday that the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played without fans.

Chinese league calls Americans back to play

Jonathan Givony | ESPN

As sporting leagues around the world grapple with how to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese Basketball Association has told American players to plan to return as early as this weekend and prepare for the league to resume in early April. But it’s not clear if the players will comply.

Approximately 40 Americans — including former NBA players Jeremy LinLance StephensonTyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson — are under contract with the 20 teams that make up the Chinese Basketball Association. Most foreign players were sent home over the Lunar New Year holiday in late January, with instructions to prepare to return in mid- to late February.

As positive signs have emerged in China in recent weeks regarding containment of the virus, CBA team officials are discussing several formats for how to resume play, sources told ESPN, including hosting all 20 teams in one or two cities and playing a truncated regular season and playoff schedule, without fans.

American players have been informed that they will be required to spend 14 days in quarantine upon return to China, sources told ESPN, although details remain sparse regarding where and how that process would be conducted.

A memo dispersed to CBA teams by the league, a translated copy of which was acquired by ESPN, reads as follows:

“To all CBA clubs,

“In January 2020, the new coronavirus broke out in many places across the country. According to the requirements of national epidemic prevention and control, we postponed the subsequent games of the 2019-2020 CBA season scheduled to be held on February 1. At present, the situation of epidemic prevention and control in CBA cities is basically stable. In order to better respond to the national requirements on precise prevention and control, solid and orderly promotion of return to work and production, shoulder the mission and task of sports confidence, warm people’s hearts and gather people’s hearts, according to the relevant requirements of China Basketball Association on the restart of the league, the rest of the games of the 2019-2020 CBA season will restart from the beginning of April.

“All clubs and teams are requested to prepare for the restart of CBA League as early as April 2. At the same time, all teams should comply with the relevant requirements of the national and local epidemic prevention and control departments, continue to strengthen the epidemic prevention and control work, do a good job in making detailed and solid security measures such as epidemic prevention and control, and ensure the health and safety of club and team members. Details of the restart will be notified separately.”

Conversations with players and representatives for around half of the Americans in the league revealed a significant amount of trepidation for how to proceed, with many players flatly stating at the moment that they do not plan on getting on a plane to China anytime in the near future due to safety concerns, at least not without significantly more information in hand.

The U.S. Department of State issued a travel advisory on Feb. 2 advising U.S. citizens not to travel to China after the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency. Some, but not all airlines have suspended service to mainland China. Players ESPN spoke with have expressed concerns about whether they will be allowed to return to the U.S. after the conclusion of the league, and whether they will be forced to undergo another process of being quarantined upon arrival.

The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 120,000 people in over 100 countries, and more than 4,000 deaths worldwide have been attributed to the virus. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it. It was officially declared a pandemic on March 11.

An NBA grappling with coronavirus is a league full of contradictions and contrasts

Henry Bushnell | Yahoo Sports

CHICAGO — Jim Boylen’s United Center entrance usually begins with a fist bump. Or a “pound,” as he calls it, his knuckles to a security guard’s, on his way into work. On Tuesday, however, it didn’t.

On Tuesday, the first day of basketball in a COVID-19-fearing NBA, it instead began with a “half-elbow.” The changes continued, around two hours before tip, halfway around the arena rather than outside the Chicago Bulls’ locker room, the NBA’s new media restrictions altering his routine. Boylen sat in the dimly lit Concert Club, a dining area that had been turned into an auxiliary news conference room. He took one coronavirus-related question, then a second. Then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth, and a seventh. Then, finally, one about basketball.

His new starting point guard, Coby White, and injured star Zach LaVine were asked about the virus as well. They’ve had team meetings about it. They’ve talked among themselves about it. They watch the news. And some of the things they see, Boylen admitted, are “a little bit frightening.” Or “a little overpowering.”

And then there are the constant reminders. The warnings, in jest, to not touch anything. The team employees wiping down food tables, and the digital PSAs outlining best practices. Wash and scrub with soap. For 20 secondsAnd don’t touch your face.

All of which explains why Chicago’s opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had a “logjam in the bathroom at the sink” before breakfast on Tuesday, newly extended head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “You see guys with their own sanitizer,” he added. As the players trotted on and off the floor Tuesday night, none reached up to fans with open palms, only with closed fists. In the hallways, they wavered between proper bro hugs and more cautious alternatives.

The United Center crowd for Bulls-Cavs on Tuesday. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

But then they took the court for the 108-103 Bulls win. The virus slid back into the depths of their minds. Up above, fans filtered in, largely unconcerned. They used the same water fountains they always do. Pulled the same ketchup levers. Exchanged the same dollar bills with beer vendors. Shared the same chicken finger baskets. Socialized at the same concessions tables. Listened to the same in-game music, and enjoyed the same arena entertainment, and watched the same basketball.

The NBA’s public-facing product on Tuesday night emerged in stark contrast to the concern unfolding around it. The question is, “Why?” And whether that’s acceptable. And how long semi-normalcy will last.

The NBA’s contradictory coronavirus stance

Around the time the United Center’s doors opened on Tuesday evening, so, seemingly, did the sports world’s reactionary floodgates. As fans in Chicago roamed the concourse, two college basketball conferences announced that their postseason tournaments would be played without any. The Ivy League had outright canceled theirsOhio governor Mike DeWine recommended a ban on spectators at indoor events. Washington governor Jay Inslee is expected to announce similar measures.

And the NBA?

Media access was the first thing to go. As of Wednesday morning, it remains the only thing. Which is telling.

“I found it quite curious,” California governor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, “that the four major organizations – NHL, soccer, Major League Baseball and the NBA – put out guidelines to protect their athletes but not their fans.”

Experts, to be sure, are largely in agreement about the need for social distancing. “We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top public health official, said Wednesday. “If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it.”

But the NBA is a billion-dollar corporation. Billion-dollar corporations, for the most part, do not exist to serve a greater good. They serve themselves. They provide products or private services or entertainment, but are beholden to their bottom lines. The NBA is no different, which explains why it moved quickly to shelter its highest-paid employees, the reasons fans fill seats, but has moved lethargically – or negligently – to protect those fans. It often claims to care about them. About you. What it really cares about are your dollars.

Kevin Love speaks to the media postgame at a podium rather than in the locker room. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

And what became clear Tuesday night, both in conversations with fans and observation, is that they are perfectly willing to continue to spend those dollars if the NBA allows them to. Barring fans would cost teams millions. They’re not inclined to voluntarily forfeit cash. Their actions, viewed alongside their media policy, seem contradictory. The contradiction also makes complete sense.

The vexing question, then, is whether the NBA has a responsibility to the public well-being that transcends its private financial interests. Its games may contribute to the spread of the virus, and eventually even to death – even if the at-risk individual who suffers is two or three degrees removed from the 25-year-old fan who contracts the virus at a game. Does the NBA have a responsibility to put that at-risk individual above the thousands of unconcerned, low-risk 20-somethings who’ll pay to enjoy weeknight basketball?

Your answer to that question is entirely subjective. The real answer is that the decision should be taken out of a billion-dollar corporation’s hands. In Italy, it was the government that enforced stadium closures, and ultimately shut down soccer for a month. In the U.S., that appears to be the next step.

Basketball without fans? ‘It’s coming’

Back inside that dimly lit auxiliary media room, we waited. The Bulls had beaten the Cavaliers. At 9:43 p.m., Bickerstaff had wrapped up his postgame news conference. At 10, with the locker room completely off limits, still, we waited for our first interview with a Cavs player. We eventually got two. Makeshift accommodations were sufficient. Public relations staffs were helpful. Access, however, was and will be fundamentally altered.

The game, however, had not been. There were some empty seats, as there would be for any March game between directionless lottery teams. But 17,837 attended. They cheered. They chatted. They ignored intangible risk. They enjoyed the show.

What will stop them are precautionary measures like the one Santa Clara Country announced on Monday, when it outlawed public gatherings of more than 1,000 people for a month. Like the ones DeWine, the Ohio governor, is asking for — ones that would force the Cavs, the same Cavs who played in front of 17,837 on Tuesday night, to play in front of nobody.

With the media room all but cleared out, I mentioned the possibility of spectator-less games to Kevin Love. Before I could ask a question, he interjected.

“It’s coming,” Love said. “It’s coming.”

It has forced players, coaches, people at all levels of the NBA to consider what hoops without hoop heads would be. What it would look like. What it would sound like. What it would feel like.

“A lot of what we do is based on the emotion and the energy that the fans bring,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s moments in games where you’re down, and you’re at home, and your crowd gives you that boost, gives you that energy, and you start to feed off that. … But now figuring out, how do you do that looking around at an empty stadium? It’ll be tough. It’ll be awkward at the beginning.”

Most of all, it’ll be different. The Cavs and Bulls players who spoke Tuesday night racked their brains for a precedent. The closest White could come to a similar experience was pickup runs at the Y.

“I couldn’t even fathom or conceptualize what that would even feel like,” Love said. “Obviously, I’ve been in empty arenas going through five-on-five scrimmages [in practice]. But even in college, we used to put the faux crowd noise on, and it’d be super loud.”

Without the artificial noise, he concluded, “I can’t even put into words what that would be like.”

An empty United Center. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)
An empty United Center. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

San Francisco bans large crowds including Warriors games for 2 weeks because of coronavirus

Jason Owens | Yahoo Sports

San Francisco is banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people for at least two weeks because of the coronavirus, a decree that will impact Golden State Warriors home games.

Mayor London N. Breed made the announcement Wednesday morning.

“We know that this order is disruptive, but it is an important step to support public health,” Breed said in a statement. “We’re following the recommendations of public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

“We know cancelling these events is a challenge for everyone, and we’ve been talking with venues and event organizers about the need to protect public health. Today I spoke with the Warriors to discuss the steps we’re taking to cancel large events, and they are in support of our efforts.”

The order will impact at least two Warriors home games. The Warriors are scheduled to host the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday and the Atlanta Hawks on March 25.

The Warriors later announced that they will play Thursday’s game without fans.

The game will be the first major American sporting event to be played without fans since the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States.

The ban doesn’t extend into baseball’s regular season with the San Francisco Giants scheduled to host their first home game on April 3. The Giants noted that they are canceling a March 24 exhibition game against the Oakland A’s.

“We will not play our upcoming March 24th exhibition game against the Oakland A’s at Oracle Park in San Francisco,” the statement reads. “We have no other large public gatherings scheduled at Oracle Park during this time period. We are in the process of working with Major League Baseball and the A’s to finalize alternative arrangements.”

The ban goes into effect immediately and can be reauthorized after the initial two-week time frame by the city’s health officer Dr. Grant Colfax, according to the statement.

The news arrives the same day the World Health Organization declared the spread of the coronavirus a pandemic.

“A pandemic just means that there are many cases of infectious diseases in multiple parts of the world and that it constitutes something that’s above the baseline rate that you’d expect,” infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It doesn’t say anything about severity.”

Colfax wrote in the San Francisco statement that the step to prohibit large crowds is an effort to improve the odds of reducing the spread of the virus.

“For the general public, reducing the opportunity for exposure to the virus is the top priority, and by cancelling events, we are improving the odds,” Colfax wrote. “We encourage all San Franciscans to cut back on the time you spend in groups and wash your hands consistently.”