Despite Virus Spike, N.B.A. Is ‘Very Comfortable’ With Florida Plan

Despite what Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, described as an “increased” level of concern over a significant rise of coronavirus cases in Florida, the league moved forward on several fronts Friday by formalizing its plans to restart the 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World near Orlando.

The league and the National Basketball Players Association jointly announced that they had officially finalized their agreement to revive the season with 22 teams next month, and the N.B.A. was set to reveal the 88-game schedule leading into the playoffs later Friday.

The league and the union also announced that, out of 302 players tested by their teams on Tuesday, 16 were positive for the coronavirus. During a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, Silver said the two organizations “ultimately believe it will be safer on our campus than off it.”

“My ultimate conclusion is that we can’t outrun the virus, and that this is what we’re going to be living with for the foreseeable future, which is why we designed the campus the way we did,” Silver said. “While it’s not impermeable, we are in essence protected from cases around us — at least that’s the model. For those reasons, we’re still very comfortable being in Orlando.”

Hours after Florida announced a single-day record of nearly 9,000 new coronavirus cases in the state — up from 5,511 on Wednesday — Silver said that the league had “no choice but to learn to live with this virus” and that no options for rebooting the season “are risk-free right now.”

Any player who tested positive this week must remain in isolation until they record two consecutive negative coronavirus tests at least 24 hours apart. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the N.B.P.A., said of the positive results that “one would have been concerning,” but she also expressed relief that there had not been more cases among the players.

“I’ve been holding my breath for the last few weeks,” Roberts said.

Said Silver: “None of the 16 were seriously ill in any way and was also a big relief for us.”

Players who test positive also must undergo cardiac screening and receive clearance from a physician before resuming basketball activities, according to the N.B.A.’s 113 pages of health and safety protocols governing the planned restart.

Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings players Jabari Parker and Alex Len announced this week that they were among the 16 positive tests. Other players reported by various news media outlets to have tested positive include Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (as reported by The Athletic), Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. (The Miami Herald) and two unnamed members of the Phoenix Suns (The Arizona Republic).

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets remained in his native Serbia this week rather than rejoin the team after he, too, tested positive. Jokic, though, was not among the 302 players tested this week, which included only players from the 22 teams involved in the season restart who are currently available for testing in their home markets.

Silver acknowledged that a “significant spread” of the coronavirus once teams were on campus in Florida “may lead us to stopping” again. But Silver said they had not yet determined what would constitute a “significant spread.”

The 22 teams participating in the N.B.A.’s restart are scheduled to report to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World starting July 7. Until then, testing of players is scheduled to continue every other day until teams leave for Florida; part of the reason teams are spending two weeks in their home markets is to help with identifying coronavirus cases and getting those players isolated before all 22 teams convene.

The defending champion Toronto Raptors are already in Florida, training at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, to avoid the travel restrictions involved in crossing the United States-Canada border.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • What’s the best material for a mask?

      Scientists around the country have tried to identify everyday materials that do a good job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored high, as did vacuum cleaner bags, fabric similar to flannel pajamas and those of 600-count pillowcases. Other materials tested included layered coffee filters and scarves and bandannas. These scored lower, but still captured a small percentage of particles.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


As the N.B.A. released of its first batch of test results, Florida on Friday reported 1,051 new confirmed Covid-19 cases in Orange County, home to Disney World. Coronavirus cases have risen steadily all month in Florida since the N.B.A. and the players’ association ratified the return-to-play plan at the Disney complex on June 4 and June 5.

The N.B.A.’s positive test rate Tuesday was 5.3 percent, but the league did not announce results for coaches and team staff members who were tested. Teams will be allowed to bring up to 17 players to Disney World in traveling parties capped at 37 people, with a mandatory quarantine of 36 to 48 hours upon arrival until two consecutive negative tests are recorded. Testing, Silver said, is scheduled daily thereafter.

Beyond the health concerns, Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul, the N.B.P.A. president, expressed confidence in the league’s pledge to support players in their efforts to further the Black Lives Matter movement when play restarts.

“We all understand how powerful our voice is,” Paul said. “It’s never a ‘shut up and dribble’ situation. You’re going to continue to hear us and see us.”

Silver said the N.B.A. “may be the most uniquely qualified organization in the world to affect change” in the quest for social justice and racial equality, given that some of the league’s players, including Paul, are among the most famous black personalities in the country.

Still, the league, its players and major media partners like Disney all have considerable financial motivation, both this season and especially beyond, to get the game back on the court.

Silver conceded that the league’s return, especially amid Florida’s rising coronavirus crisis, was “definitely not business as usual.” Yet he insisted that the N.B.A. “must adapt” and would try to show the public “how we can balance public health and economic necessity.”

“We can’t sit on the sidelines indefinitely,” Silver said.

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