The NBA has reportedly made a turnaround on the testing of asymptomatic players and staff for COVID-19. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the NBA will allow teams that have reopened their facilities to test asymptomatic players and staff — but only if tests are readily available in that area.
The NBA recently informed teams of a "limited exception" to guidelines that forbid the testing of asymptomatic individuals in this preliminary phase of players returning to practice facilities. Essentially, the NBA will approve a written authorization from a local health authority that confirms a "robust testing program in place for at-risk health care workers" in the team's community, sources said.
Team facilities began to reopen on Friday, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers being the first. The Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, and Atlanta Hawks are expected to do the same in the next week. According to Woj, the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams that would be eligible for the “limited exception” to the testing rule due to local testing programs.
The NBA has been very concerned with the optics of testing asymptomatic players and staff, which is a necessary step in getting the league up and running again. They were criticized in March for testing asymptomatic players because COVID-19 testing was not readily available for most people regardless of their symptoms, and sometimes not even available for frontline healthcare workers.
The NBA doesn’t want to look like they’re taking COVID-19 tests away from people who really need them, which is why it’s puzzling that they’re tying asymptomatic employee testing to the availability of tests for at-risk healthcare workers, who presumably need every test they can get. Beyond that, testing for regular asymptomatic people is only now becoming available in the United States, and is thus far still fairly limited.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has taken a stand on reopening his team facilities, saying on a podcast earlier this week that he won’t reopen the Mavs’ facilities because of a lack of robust COVID-19 testing, even though the Texas stay-at-home order has ended.
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