NBA 'bubble community' records zero positive COVID tests as national numbers rise

Devin Booker driving to the basket in a game against the Washington Wizards. Both the Wizards and the Suns are part of the NBA 'bubble community'
Devin Booker driving to the basket in a game against the Washington Wizards. Both the Wizards and the Suns are part of the NBA "bubble community" | Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison

Since early July, NBA players, coaches and staff have lived in a “bubble community” at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where zero positive coronavirus tests were recorded, according to a joint statement from the NBA and NBA Players Association on Monday.

The NBA’s plan to restart basketball comes after their season was halted due to the pandemic in March. After more than 300 tests, none were positive. The plan is to restart the 2019-20 season on July 30.

“Maybe we should send our plan to the White House,” Los Angeles Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said at a press conference.

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Rivers made the remark after praising the mask requirements and strict protocols of the league. Twenty-two NBA teams are split between three Disney hotels and in-room visiting is not permitted. Testing is extensive in the bubble community.

Meanwhile, many states have been vocal about their need for improved testing as they see record daily infection rates. The U.S. now has over 4 million confirmed cases and 143,967 deaths.

Anyone entering the Orlando "bubble" is required to quarantine for 48 hours until they register two negative COVID-19 tests. Any players who leave the bubble environment would undergo quarantine of up to 10 days upon their return to Disney, according to CBS Sports.

“In the event that a player on the NBA campus returns a confirmed positive test in the future, he will be isolated until he is cleared for leaving isolation under the rules established by the NBA and the Players Association,” the NBA said.

Basketball games will be televised live from Disney World with no fans in attendance. Players are heavily discouraged from leaving the bubble because the 10-day required quarantine would force them to miss games. 

There is not a lack of enforcement in the NBA bubble either, as two players who committed infringements that seem minor were forced to quarantine for the 10-day period. Richaun Holmes of the Sacramento Kings crossed the NBA bubble boundary to pick up a food order.

"After the initial quarantine period, I briefly and accidentally crossed the NBA campus line to pick up a food delivery," Holmes said on Twitter. "I am currently in quarantine and have eight days left. I apologize for my actions and look forward to rejoining my teammates for our playoff push."

In the NBA bubble, players are encouraged to hold each other accountable through an anonymous service that can report infractions. The service nicknamed “the snitch hotline” has received criticism from NBA players, just as precautions nationwide have. NBA player Spencer Dimwiddie voiced his disliking of the system to Bleacher Report.

According to Shams Charania, one of the premiere basketball reporters in the country, the system has seen activity and progress despite the criticism. 

“Multiple tips have been placed into the NBA’s anonymous hotline to report protocol violations on campus,” tweeted Shams Charania of The Athletic. “Some players have received warnings from violations, sources said, as the league ensures social distancing and mask protocols on campus," Charania said in another tweet.

Outside of the bubble, the coronavirus case count has risen in 45 states. There is still disagreement among states on how to handle the virus, including mask mandates.

Practice games began this week in Orlando and are the first contact between different teams since the original season was halted. The season is expected to end in October. 

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