Company Testing NBA Players In Bubble Seeks ‘Greater Good’


The company testing NBA players in the Orlando bubble is tackling a unique logistical challenge in order to facilitate a “greater good,” according to the man in charge of testing NBA players to ensure they are not positive for COVID-19.

Bio-Reference Laboratories has about 100 people working inside and outside of the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World Resort, both testing NBA players and staff, and transporting those tests to the proper facilities.

The league announced Monday that of 346 tests conducted of players since results were last announced July 13, zero have come back positive.

So far, so good.

“The tentacles and impact of this is really big,” said Dr. Jon Cohen, executive chairman of Bio-Reference.

Cohen said his company is administering nasal swab tests along with blood antibody tests at player hotels and at other recently constructed facilities, including a trailer, inside the Orlando bubble, where 22 NBA teams are getting ready for the resumption of the season July 30.

Bio-Reference also is conducting tests for Major League Soccer and the National Football League.

Each sport brings a different set of challenges, but the company has been conducting large-scale testing since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in mid-March.

“We set up systems for hospitals that were somewhat similar to this logistical situation and solution. We’ve done large numbers and screenings of lots of people over a short period of time … 100,000 tests in the five boroughs of New York City, 250,000 tests in 400 nursing homes, tests in 30 New York correctional facilities.,” Cohen said. “So we have experience in this, and all of these solutions are highly customized.”

NBA players and staff members are being tested regularly inside the bubble, and players who have left the bubble without permission or defied other coronavirus rules have been subject to increased quarantining.

Teams were assigned to their rooms for 48 hours upon their arrival in Orlando, and the social media world has been following an array of developments, some serious, some lighthearted, that have been taking place inside the bubble. Many of those developments have been chronicled by the Twitter account @NBABubbleLife, which was profiled in The New York Times +0.8%NYT on Tuesday,

The perils of being tested regularly have been fodder for some dark humor from NBA players, and as anyone who has taken a nasal swab test will attest, it is a discomfiting procedure that unfortunately has become a necessity in a world dealing with a pandemic.

Bio-Reference first started speaking with the NBA about six weeks ago as plans for the bubble restart were being formulated.

“Our people have relationships with different people in sports leagues,” Cohen said. “And what we’ve found is that these leagues have deep, thoughtful people working for them who wanted to have the safest thing for the players who were going to be inside the bubble.”

Monday’s report of zero positive tests was a piece of good news, yet it remains to be seen what might happen if any of the players test positive after scrimmages and games begin taking place. But for now, the bubble seems to be working.

The regular season resumes July 30 with two games: Utah vs. New Orleans and the L.A. Clippers vs. the L.A. Lakers.

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