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Florida COVID-19 positives concern NBA on verge of play

With Florida COVID-19 positives and rates on the rise, NBA execs and players are concerned about the plan to relaunch the 2019-2020 season in a closed Disney World atmosphere.

In the last week (Sunday to Sunday), Florida set records for reports of daily infection rates, with 3,494 new coronavirus cases reported by the state, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Of particular concern: the state is testing less but the positive rates are increasing:

However, the increase in testing numbers and in case numbers are rising at different rates. Testing appears to be slowing down, while the percentage of positive results appears to be steadily growing.

1.6 million COVID-19 tests have been administered in the state as of Sunday, including another 38,055 tests logged since Saturday. The state reports that about 11.9% of Saturday’s new patients were positive for COVID-19, the second-highest in two weeks.

Yesterday’s update saw the highest positivity rate of about 12.4%.

The current plan is for 22 NBA teams to gather in Florida’s Disney World and finish the season, beginning July 30, with games and playoffs at the ESPN Wide World of Sports facility. While there’s been broad agreement on the desire to play, many players have questioned the plan on a health basis, wanting to know the specifics of COVID-19 mitigation and how much interaction there would be with the world outside the bubble: Disney employees, for instance, would not be tested. This trend was the subject of a conference call between NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and team officials, per ESPN:

In at least one recent call with high-level team executives, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has acknowledged the spiking numbers in Florida. Team sources described the general tone of that call, including the questions asked of Silver on it, as tense. Another called Silver’s tone “resolute but somber.” He expressed a resolve to go on — a confidence in the NBA’s bubble concept — while recognizing the seriousness of the coronavirus spike, sources said….

NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN that the league is “closely monitoring the data in Florida and Orange County and will continue to work collaboratively with the National Basketball Players Association, public health officials and medical experts regarding our plans.”

Of the rising figures, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN: “Can’t say I am surprised, given the state’s approach to reopening. We are obviously clearly monitoring the situation. While we take some solace in knowing our players will not travel commercially to get to Orlando, that access to the campus is severely limited and, of course, all of the other health and safety protocols in place, the numbers will keep our attention. If necessary to add further restrictions respecting those third parties having access to the campus, we will seek to implement them.”

Now closed as part of the wider closure of Disney World, the 255-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports complex features several venues that can host basketball games closed to fans: HP Field House, the Visa Athletic Center and The Arena. Players, officials and team officials could stay at a nearby currently closed resort. The plus to hosting at ESPN Wide World of Sports: everything is already set up, between playing spaces, locker rooms, hotel rooms and broadcast facilities. Disney runs an internal WWoS broadcast network and is set up with camera, studio and editing stations. There are 30,000 or so rooms on the Disney World campus, including many operated by third-party vendors like the Four Seasons and Hilton.

Photo of the HP Field House courtesy Disney.

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