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NBA Struggles With COVID-19 “Bubbles”

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Terms and conditions may apply as the league prepares to resume action in a time of pandemic.

NBA: 2019 NBA Awards Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As they prepare to re-open the 2020 regular season, the NBA continues to come under scrutiny for their plans to deal with COVID-19 and the risk of infection. Over the last 24 hours, plans for creating “bubble” zones for players and staff have come under fire in the face of new reports about expanded locations and apparent lack of containment.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN news tweeted that the NBA is contemplating opening a second site for games, inviting the eight teams not participating in Orlando to play each other in September in Chicago.

Meanwhile the league’s first bubble in Florida is beset with logistics concerns, the chiefest of which is how to keep the boundary between inside and outside viable when workers cross it daily. Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel reminded readers that Disney resort staff will return to their homes throughout the renewed season while pointing out that many live in “hotspots” for COVID-19 infection.

Of the 20 Central Florida ZIP codes with the most Disney workers represented by union Unite Here, half rank in the region’s top 30 ZIPs for confirmed COVID-19 cases, an Orlando Sentinel analysis shows. More than 8,600 Disney workers live in those ZIP code areas.

Both the league and the resort have established protocols for interaction and monitoring, but protocols for testing remain undecided at this point.

Gillespie quotes Dr. Raul Pino, officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County:

He said he thinks the plans will work, though he won’t be surprised to see positive cases emerge.

“I think it’s going to be successful. I think the main issue we may face is if there is transmission between teams,” Pino said. “I expressed that to them. Getting a case here or there won’t be [a major problem], because that’s expected.”

The 22 teams participating in the July restart will travel to Orlando in the coming week, with the season set to resume officially on July 30th.