Then, coronavirus cases spiked in Florida.
Though the league’s plan called for an intangible bubble that separated players and other essential employees from the outside world, the rising positivity rate in Florida presented danger. If someone from the surrounding community infiltrated the bubble, he or she was more likely to have coronavirus.
The NBA projected confidence in its plan and obviously proceeded.
But apparently, the league nearly called off the entire operation.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via Bomani Jones of GQ:
I should point out what makes it not quite the bubble people think it is, is that many of the workers…the vast majority of them do not live in the bubble. They live in the [surrounding] community. And as we know, the case rate went way up in Florida—almost the highest in the country. When we began operations here in early July, it was almost at the apex of cases in Florida, which almost caused us not to go forward, were it not for the confidence our experts had in the system we had set up and the long quarantine periods.
Some people think that the testing is what prevented the spread. But given that we’ve had zero cases, essentially what prevented the spread were the same practices that ultimately proved successful around the 1918 flu: physical distancing, quarantining, mask wearing, handwashing. There’s nothing more high-tech than that at the end of the day, and that seemingly is what has proved to be effective here.
The NBA played five-on-five basketball games! That’s not physically distancing. Players didn’t wear masks while competing.
The bubble worked for one reason: People who regularly tested negative for coronavirus and people who didn’t regularly test negative for coronavirus were prohibited from having close contact with each other. That setup was possible only because the NBA had resources to test and get results quickly when many others didn’t. There were also armed guards at Disney World to keep out outsiders, and the league’s rules kept in insiders.
I have no problem with the NBA flexing its financial might to conduct its business safely. But don’t let Silver spin it that was just old-fashioned distancing and mask-wearing.
It was the tests and closed campus – things that don’t come cheaply, but were worth it in this case.