NBA and Players Union Evaluate Potential COVID-19 Rapid Test Options

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Over the past few weeks, NBA and NBPA officials have been working together to assess the viability of several coronavirus blood test devices that could deliver accurate results in minutes, a process that we hope , would allow the league to follow the virus in what is seen as a critical first step towards resuming play in the near future.

Several league sources close to the situation said the league and the players’ union had looked at what those familiar with the subject called “diabetes-like” blood tests in which a person could, with a finger prick , be tested quickly, and the results could be won in 15 minutes.

Illinois-based Abbott labs began shipping their rapid response tests across the United States last week, according to a Washington Post report. The tests, which have been approved by the FDA, should yield results in five to 13 minutes.

League sources stressed that this issue is in the exploratory phase and that there is no clear timetable as to when the effectiveness of such a device could be proven. They also stressed that advances in science and medicine are advancing at a rapid pace, with cross-border collaboration, which suggests that revolutionary solutions may be possible much sooner than later.

Based on more than a dozen interviews with general managers and those responsible for sports training in the league in recent days, there is a collective feeling that, in general, the discovery of effective methods for testing at Quick results is the critical hurdle that must be overcome for games of any type that will take place in the weeks and months to come.

“Rapid test results are essential for returning to work, returning to sport, everything,” said an NBA general manager to ESPN, speaking on condition of anonymity. “No matter what job you have and what environment you work in, if you interact with people, we’re all going to have to feel safe doing this. Sport is no different. “

“While our number one priority remains the health and well-being of everyone, the league office continues to assess all options for a return to the game,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN. “Any decision on a resumption date for the season is likely within a few weeks and will be made in consultation with public health experts and in accordance with government directives and directives. “

The greater availability of devices evaluated by the NBA and NBPA was unclear. But many league team officials have said that if an effective rapid test approach is approved and made available, the timing of when such a method could be used in the NBA is still unclear and should be dealt with. delicacy and appropriately, given the severe shortage. tests available across the country.

“We’re clearly going to be second after health care workers, transportation workers, public workers, things like that,” said a longtime NBA sports coach.

“Even if the technology exists, is it accessible? Said another athletic coach with first-hand knowledge of the process. “Because of course we have people of higher priority who may need it, like our emergency workers and our medical professionals who definitely have priority over our players. “

Many team officials underscored President Trump’s social distancing directives until April 30 and said there would be no NBA games as long as the government and various medical agencies and officials public health authorities would not have given the green light.

“There is no way we can [come] before it is socially acceptable, “said an NBA general manager.

At best, several team officials have said that such tests could lead to testing the players and staff of the team before entering an arena for a match.

But even if an effective rapid test is discovered, there are many potential questions and pitfalls, said many officials.

“The thing that worries most people right now is the inevitability – not even the probability, the absolute inevitability – of a false negative,” said a managing director.

Or, said the sport coach involved in the process, what happens if a player or staff member has a “low viral load” after being infected with the virus for only a few days and that it doesn’t register for a test.

The official said, “So a terrible situation would be if this person is infected, he is wearing, but he does not show up, and you do the finger prick test that says negative, and then you have him among everyone , thinking he is in good health, but not really. “

Theoretically, officials said players and other team staff should be isolated before the return of their test results. But as several officials have asked, if a person is successful, how long will that person be detained? Even then, according to team officials, the rate of potential tests is unclear: would players and staff be tested every day? After the games, should they be confined to a quarantined space at a specified location and thus separated from all other people in the audience?

Creating a perfect bubble might sound like an ideal goal, but many in the league have said that such an idea seemed almost logistically impossible.

Discussions about potential games on neutral sites – or in cities where the spread of the virus remains low – have circulated in the league, including the possibility for all the teams to play in a city or to divide the games between two places , one in the Western Conference and one in the Eastern Conference.

“If there is a will, there is a way. Logistically, it can be done, ”said a managing director. Another, however, warned of the risk of a single infected player.

Many team officials have told ESPN that as the days go by and financial losses increase, the league will be increasingly forced to return to play in one form or another, potentially even if it doesn’t there is no perfect environment.

“If you’re going to come back, you have to come back knowing that people are going to have [the virus] Said an NBA general manager.

Such a decision then comes down to the risk / reward and that the NBA, NBPA and all parties involved are comfortable.

As one longtime athletic trainer said, “This is the question the league is probably in trouble with: if 80% of the players have been exposed and 20% have not been exposed, can you take a reward risk [calculation]? “

Several team officials interviewed said that when the NBA explores avenues to return to the game and recover elements from the 2019-20 season – to play some sort of regular season or post-season or even a mix of the two – there is confidence in the NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“Adam was the first to close, and it rings out,” said an NBA general manager. “We are not going to be the first to open and it will be a disaster. “

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