NBA looking into potential rapid-test options for coronavirus

According to a report, the NBA is looking into potential rapid-test options for the coronavirus, which could be a critical first step to returning to action.

In the sports world, the NBA has been at the forefront in trying to combat and deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It was the first major sports league to officially suspend its season, charting the course for the others to follow suit within the next 24 hours. It’s been spreading awareness through the personalities and home videos of its players, it’s attempting to help curb the spread by donating masks to medical professionals, and its commissioner, Adam Silver, has made it known he wants sports to help restart society and the economy once this crisis has been dealt with.

Now the league is assessing the possibility of taking another major first step forward on that last front.

According to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, the NBA is looking into potential rapid-test COVID-19 options. These rapid-response, blood-testing devices, similar to a diabetes blood test where someone could get results within minutes with the prick of a finger, have been shipping from the Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories across the U.S. since last week. As Holmes reports, these FDA-approved tests deliver results for COVID-19 testing in 5-13 minutes.

At this stage, all of these talks are exploratory; Holmes emphasizes the league is not trying to “skip the line,” so to speak, especially since testing availability has been scant in many places around the country. Healthcare workers, transportation workers, public workers — all of those people and any others on the front lines of fighting this illness, in addition to those showing symptoms of the illness that require a test, would obviously take precedence.

There are also many potential pitfalls. While such a method would be effective in testing players and league staffers before entering an empty arena for a game, there’s always the possibility of a false negative. It’s also unclear how often NBA personnel would have access to these tests in the event someone does test positive for COVID-19. How long would they have to be isolated in that case? How often would they receive tests after that?

Still, with the rapid advancements in science and medicine attempting to fight this pandemic, there is optimism around the league that this is a critical development toward the return of the NBA season, which Silver said in a Monday interview won’t have a further update until at least May.

With Silver stressing that the NBA has looked at playing games without fans “a lot,” if the league can verify that its players, officials and essential staff members are safe and keep them quarantined, with no fans in attendance, there may be hope for some form of basketball being played again in the future — even if it’s from a single neutral site.

The league’s televised, players-only NBA 2K Tournament is (barely) filling the void for now, but if these rapid-test options become a reality and can be distributed in a widespread fashion, perhaps sports won’t be as far into the distant future as we once feared. Until that day, however, it’s best for the league to proceed with caution as it attempts to restart life as we remember it.

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