Although the NBA is nearing its return, there is still massive concern about the health and safety of players and staff at Walt Disney World due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
With 22 teams eventually descending on Orlando, Florida, for the remainder of the regular season and potentially the playoffs if their team qualifies, there has been been some push back from players about rules and protocols that are being discussed.
The NBA has done their best to establish a campus environment that will insulate players, but the bubble certainly isn’t going to be 100% impenetrable.
On top of various guidelines that will be in place, those who are planning to play out the rest of the season will be subject to regular testing and according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, it appears they will be given an opportunity to participate in an experimental testing:
Researchers at Yale and the NBA and National Basketball Players Association have partnered “to study the efficacy of a saliva-based method that quickly determines if someone is infected with the novel coronavirus,” the university announced on Monday. Yale School of Public Health researchers have developed a COVID-19 testing method called SalivaDirect. The test is not mandatory and will be used on players, coaches and staff from NBA teams who voluntarily opt in to the study. There is buy-in from the NBPA.
As part of the NBA season’s return, the league is researching several different testing methods with group testing being a possible option. Group testing would reduce the number of players who would need to be tested and so far is still on the table for the league to utilize.
This saliva-based testing model only requires a small saliva sample and is less invasive than nasal swab testing. This would be a more palatable option and makes the most sense given the ease to administer, while also reducing risk of exposure to healthcare workers.
The partnership also makes sense from a public health standpoint because if it proves to be successful in the NBA bubble, then it could possible be an option for the general public if it passes FDA approval. That in itself is worth exploring and the potential benefits would be a boon in the fight against the virus.
It will be interesting to see how the trial testing goes given what is at stake, but in the meantime the league and its teams will be gearing up to finish out what was an exciting regular season.
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