The trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted dramatically since the NBA announced its plan to run a bubble league at Disney World.
But as the pandemic continues to worsen in the United States, the league is moving forward. For now, at least.
Coronavirus cases have spiked across the country with Florida among the worst-hit states. Meanwhile, NBA players and team staff members are regularly testing positive for COVID-19, while other players are opting out of the bubble league entirely.
‘Designed to protect us’
Commissioner Adam Silver addressed those concerns in a Time 100 talk on Tuesday. He believes the plan for league’s return is sound and will be provide a safer environment for people inside the bubble than they would face in their daily lives.
“Our model was designed to protect us and our players from cases outside the community,” Silver said, per the New York Times’ Span Deb. “Maybe at the time we designed it, we didn’t think it would be as necessary as it is now.”
Silver said that the league did not anticipate the recent growth of the pandemic in the United States when it laid out its bubble league plan in early June. But he argued that predicting the trajectory of the coronavirus was folly and that the bubble was designed to protect those inside with or without a spike in outside cases.
“When we designed this plan, we were not seeing the kind of increases in cases, frankly — not just in Florida and Texas, but at least, as of the last few days, the majority of states in the United Staes are seeing increases in COVID cases,” Silver said.
“So it’s not as if, especially looking out into the future, there’s any safe way to predict or pick a market where we’ll be confident that the cases will be sufficiently down. So our model was designed for this.”
Florida’s coronavirus surge
Florida's graph yesterday for new cases was eye-opening.
In one day it doubled its 7-day rolling, rapidly rising average.
And today it soared beyond that to >9,500https://t.co/JmVMp6u8NA pic.twitter.com/R3rCZrabjG
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) June 27, 2020
The state eclipsed 150,000 confirmed cases on Tuesday with a death toll of 3,505. Meanwhile Dr. Anthony Fauci criticized the nationwide movement to reopen in testimony to Congress. The leading infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health predicted a nationwide surge of 100,000 new cases per day if steps aren’t taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Bubble won’t be completely isolated
While expressing confidence in the bubble’s ability to withstand the outside forces of COVID-19 in Florida, Silver didn’t rule out things going bad inside the bubble. He acknowledged the reality of isolated cases of players and staff testing positive, but plans to shut things down if an outbreak occurs.
“If cases are isolated, that’s one thing,” Silver said, per the Associated Press. “ ... But if we had a lot of cases, we’re going to stop.”
He said the bubble won’t be completely isolated. Disney staffers will be allowed to “come in and out” of the bubble and subject to regular testing as they do. Those staffers will also be required to remain “far more than 10 feet” away from players.
Silver also says he doesn’t plan to remain in the bubble the entire time.
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