In municipalities where coronavirus testing has become readily available to at-risk health care workers, NBA teams opening facilities for voluntary workouts will be allowed to administer tests to asymptomatic players and staff, sources told ESPN.
The Orlando Magic have been approved and plan to administer testing to players prior to a Tuesday reopening, and the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams expected to be allowed to conduct coronavirus tests of all players and staff members entering facilities for individual workouts — regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently said that testing is available for all residents, not just front-line and at-risk health care workers.
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.
A Magic spokesman told ESPN that written authorization from Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino on the availability of testing in the Orlando community has been approved by the NBA.
“We have been assured we are not taking any [antiviral or coronavirus] tests from health care workers, first responders or anyone, whether they are experiencing symptoms or asymptomatic,” the spokesman said. “As we have been told, the general public in our community can go to numerous locations to receive a coronavirus test.”
Among teams that opened up facilities on Friday, including Cleveland and Portland, those testing options weren’t in place, sources said. The Trail Blazers and Cavaliers are among the teams planning to participate in the Mayo Clinic Coronavirus Antibody Study — an NBA and National Basketball Players Association partnership — that will provide confidential test results to players within two days of the clinic receiving samples, sources said.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said that there needs to be widespread testing available in the United States before the league could consider a resumption of play this season. The NBA plans to test players and employees on a regular basis upon resumption, and sources told ESPN that, in a bubble isolation format, the NBA expects it would need in the neighborhood of 15,000 tests to complete the 2019-20 season. While the NBA plans to regularly test players for COVID-19 upon a formal resumption of the season, it has been reluctant in these voluntary scenarios of one-hour workouts to have a perception that the league is needlessly using tests that might otherwise serve those at greater risk in a community.
Teams will follow numerous protocols upon players returning to facilities for these workouts, including the taking of temperatures, sources said.
For franchises and players concerned about protecting those reentering practice facilities, this could ease safety concerns and increase the participation in programs.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told The Athletic Dallas Podcast this week: “The problem obviously is that because we can’t test people, then we can’t assure anybody’s safety, whether they’re basketball players or anyone else.”