When Utah’s Rudy Gobert showed symptoms that matched up with COVID-19, and other causes had been ruled out, he was tested and found to have the coronavirus, which sparked a shutdown of the league. That night, his teammates and members of the Jazz traveling party — including some members of the traveling media — were tested, a total of 58 tests (one came back positive, for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell).
That many tests going to elite athletes while regular Oklahoman’s who might have the disease but are not in high-risk categories, could not get tested created some backlash.
Tuesday came the news four members of the Brooklyn Nets, including Kevin Durant, tested positive for the virus, and only one had symptoms. That again led to backlash about the players getting tested, including from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
We wish them a speedy recovery. But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested.
Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick. https://t.co/7uQlL3zc7Z
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 17, 2020
The Nets paid a private company to do their testing. That does not change the fact that an NBA team could pay to get tested while a restaurant worker or insurance salesman who walked into a local clinic with symptoms could be told there were not enough tests to check them.
The NBA released a statement on players getting tested to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass on NBA teams receiving Coronavirus tests. pic.twitter.com/rKOdhiCCw4
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) March 18, 2020
That statement isn’t going to satisfy critics, and this debate is not over.
When it was announced that the four Brooklyn players tested positive, the Los Angeles Lakers told their players they would be tested on Wednesday. That’s more tests for people who are at low risk to suffer from COVID-19 who will get tests because their employer can afford to get it done through a private firm.
This largely ties into a shortage of tests nationally, an issue from the start of the epidemic that led to an inability to track the disease, hastening its spread. The United States has not caught up on the testing curve yet, particularly compared to other nations.
Though comprehensive global testing data is not available, it is clear that the United States’s coronavirus testing rate is far behind those of other nations. 5/ pic.twitter.com/3vhoF37XkV
— NYT Graphics (@nytgraphics) March 17, 2020
There have been more than 6,000 reported cases in the United States and more than 100 deaths attributed to the virus, and those numbers will only rise (especially as testing capabilities ramp up).