The NBA and NBAPA are considering the effectiveness of rapid-response testing in hopes of resuming the regular season, according to sources. The tests are reportedly capable of detecting the presence of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 within 15 minutes.
First reported by ESPN senior writer Baxter Holmes, adopting such a test would represent “a critical first step toward resuming play in the near future.”
The testing process is reportedly similar to a diabetes blood test, which uses finger pricks to extract blood for a quick, efficient blood test.
Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories began distributing the FDA-approved blood tests last week, per the Washington Post. According to Holmes, NBA officials believe discovering an effective and accurate rapid-response test is the major hurdle that needs clearing before play can resume.
However, league sources state that the testing is still in its exploratory phases, emphasizing that no timetable has been agreed upon to accept or reject the testing model.
“Rapid testing results are key to return to work, return to sports, everything,” said one NBA general manager under the protection of anonymity. “Whatever job you have and environment you work in, if you’re interacting with people, we’re all going to have to feel safe doing that. Sports isn’t any different.”
However, Baxter’s sources also communicated concern over prioritizing athletics over healthcare and other essential positions. The United States is currently experiencing a shortage of crucial supplies, including the availability of widespread testing.
In an interview with Ernie Johnson of TNT, NBA commissioner Adam Silver denied any plans to come to a definitive decision regarding the fate of the season. The NBA is currently exploring a variety of models to salvage the season, including an abbreviated conclusion to the regular season or an immediate transition to the NBA playoffs with either a traditional or modified format.
However, the test model carries risks. Should one player remain asymptomatic while carrying a low viral load, the rapid-response testing may fail to detect the presence of coronavirus.
“So a terrible situation would be if that person just got infected, he’s carrying, but he’s not showing, and you do the finger-prick test that says negative and then you have him amongst everybody else, thinking he’s got a clean bill of health but he doesn’t really,” said one NBA official.
Players would also require mandatory isolation until the test results come back.
The potential adoption of rapid-response testing is still in its embryonic stages, as several obstructions remain. For example, NBA officials must consider the planned response should an NBA player test positive in addition to the potential ramifications of s second outbreak. A wave of infections directly attributed to a resumed regular season would be catastrophic to both the NBA and its reputation.
Nevertheless, both the NBA and its players vocalized a desire to continue play. “Any means necessary… to try and salvage the season,” said Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green.