Coronavirus: NBA defends teams getting tested following critical comments from New York City mayor

The tally of NBA players with confirmed positive COVID-19 tests more than doubled when the Brooklyn Nets accounted that four of their players had contracted the coronavirus on Tuesday. Kevin Durant later revealed that he was one of the four players, with the other three yet to be identified.

The entire team was tested for the coronavirus upon returning from their scheduled game against the Golden State Warriors last Thursday, which was not played following the NBA suspending all operations on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The report also says that the Nets paid for the tests themselves through a private company to conduct the tests.

The situation drew a strong reaction from New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who wished the Nets players a “speedy recovery,” but said that NBA teams should not be getting tested before “critically ill patients” who have yet to receive tests.

Shortly after the Nets’ announcement, reports surfaced indicating that the Los Angeles Lakers, who played the Nets last week in the final game for both teams before the shutdown, would be tested for the coronavirus and self-quarantine for 14 days. So far seven players have tested positive for COVID-19, four of which have been identified: Durant, Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood and Utah Jazz players Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

The argument in favor of testing NBA players is simple. As NBA spokesman Mike Bass put it to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, “Public health authorities and team doctors have been concerned that, given NBA players’ direct contact with each other and close interactions with the general public, in addition to their frequent travel, they could accelerate the spread of the virus. Following two players testing positive last week, others were tested and five additional players tested positive. Hopefully, by these players choosing to make their test results public, they have drawn attention to the critical need for young people to follow CDC recommendations in order to protect others, particularly those with underlying health conditions and the elderly.” Not only are NBA players high risk, but their testing positive could meaningfully drive others towards social distancing. 

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said on Tuesday that public and private laboratories are increasing their capacity to test patients for COVID-19, calling it a “dramatic ramp.”

“The commercial system is rapidly advancing its testing capabilities,” Giroir said. “As of today our public health laboratories, meaning the CDC and the public health labs, have reported out 31,878 tests, so almost 32,000 tests. The clinical laboratories, the Association of Clinical Laboratories, have reported out about 27,000 tests.”

Giroir added that 47 drive-through testing locations in “approximately 12 states” are expected to be set up soon.

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