Everyone is looking at China as a crystal ball for predicting the future. Will their curve stays flat or will there be another rise in infected people once life gradually gets back to normal? Recent reports raise concerns for health officials, and then consequentially for sports leagues around the world.
Everyone’s hopes got up when we learned that the Chinese Basketball Association called back all players and announced a plan to resume their season in two cities. The idea was to test everyone, and then keep them isolated while they play games at neutral sites. The NBA followed that lead and started developing a similar plan for Las Vegas.
We now learned that the Chinese Basketball Association shut down after the Chinese government implemented a ban on all team sports. The reality is we still don’t know enough about COVID-19, and as long as that’s the case, no sports league can resume play.
There are two main problems. It’s practically impossible to keep a large group of people in complete isolation. Take the Las Vegas idea as an example. EVERYONE the players come in contact with would also have to be tested and 100% isolated to ensure a “safe bubble.” According to Dr. Caroline Buckee, an associate professor of Epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, that’s not a realistic scenario.
“It sounds like potentially a bad idea. I don’t think it’s realistic to completely isolate and quarantine the players. For a start, there are people who will need to clean their rooms, feed them, wash their clothes, janitorial staff and so forth. And those people will not be protected and they will be interacting with their communities. It is very difficult to truly self-isolate. Purposefully putting people at risk seems foolish.”Dr. Caroline Buckee, via NBCSports
The other problem is the weak testing ability in the United States. Any sort of plan implies continuous testing of everyone involved – as soon as someone is positive, you need to isolate that person. There are more and more data suggesting asymptomatic carriers are the main problem, and while testing isn’t widely available, it’s not realistic to expect any sort of games played. The way the Trump administration has been dealing with the status quo and responding to criticism – don’t get your hopes up.
All these elements combined (Chinese league canceled + isolation impossible + lack of testing) made the NBA face reality and start to prepare for canceling the 2019-2020 NBA season. Brian Windhorst reported that all sides involved started communicating with that in mind.
“The talks between the players union and the league this week, I’ve talked to both sides of this issue, and it is clear that the NBA is angling to set up a deal that enables them to shut the season down.”Brian Windhorst, ESPN
Windhorst pointed out this isn’t definitive. Everyone is still hoping and keeping the doors open for some sort of solution. But the way things have developed, shutting the season down seems like the most likely outcome right now.