Adam Silver addresses restart as COVID-19 cases spike in Florida: 'No options are risk-free'

Coronavirus coverage on Yahoo
Coronavirus coverage on Yahoo

Hours after Florida reported its highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in a single day, NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the league’s plan to continue with its bubble season at Disney World near Orlando.

“We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus,” Silver told reporters, via Howard Beck at Bleacher Report. “No options are risk-free right now.”

The Florida Department of Health reported nearly 9,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday, crushing the previous single-day high of 5,511 from Wednesday. Orange County, where Orlando is located, reported a high of 1,051 cases and a percent positive rate of 17.9 — far outpacing the recommended rate of 5 percent. The state announced later Friday it was closing bars.

It’s left questions about how safe it is for the NBA to hold the remainder of its 2019-20 regular season and entire postseason in Orlando.

Silver: safe, responsible plan

Silver told reporters the league’s plan was “safe and responsible” and believes players and NBA personnel are safer inside the bubble than out of it. Epidemiologists agreed with that in conversations with Yahoo Sports’ Henry Bushnell, but noted it also has to do with the environment around them.

Silver concurs that the level of concern is higher now than it may have been when the NBA agreed to the deal.

Silver said the NBA is working with Disney to expand testing of workers or any others who come inside the bubble. Employees going in and out of the bubble, returning to their families and communities with high rates of the virus, has been a concern.

Wearing a mask will be mandatory when players are not on the court in compliance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines. NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts was also on the call, and said they are working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.

A positive COVID-19 case will not shut down the league, Silver reiterated, but if there is “significant spread” in Orlando it may force the league to stop play.

“That line hasn’t been set yet,” he told reporters.

NBA releases first COVID-19 test data

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver walks away from the podium after speaking at a news conference before an NBA preseason basketball game between the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Saitama, near Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the safety of having the NBA season at Disney World while Florida handles rising COVID-19 cases. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The NBA and NBA Players Association jointly reported the results of the first round of constant COVID-19 testing that was done Tuesday as players begin reporting to their home markets for training camp.

Of the 302 players tested, 16 tested positive for a positivity rate of 5.3 percent. Those who have the virus are isolating and will join team activities when cleared by a physician. Players will be tested every other day and daily when they arrive to Orlando.

Why continue to play?

Silver said the league will come back because the nation needs it.

“We’re coming back because sports matter in our society,” Silver said. “They bring people together when they need it the most.”

There’s certainly also a financial aspect to consider for the league in continuing to play and broadcast games.

There will be no fans allowed at games beginning next month. Game broadcasts will be tweaked, Silver said, to include more camera angles, personalized alternative screens, “enhanced audio” of players and coaches, and virtual concerts and halftime performances.

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