As the NBA continues to deal with the reality of attempts to play the 2020-21 regular season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league sent a memo Wednesday night to teams with plans to try to supplement the tests already for players and referees with localized game day tests in all 28 NBA cities.
The memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, asks each team to spend the next two days looking for local test providers; the league plans to discuss those findings with the teams over the weekend with the aim of running the additional tests sometime next week. The goal is to find a local polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing provider that can run at least 40 tests – enough to handle players from both teams, as well as that night’s umpires – that can be done on the morning of a game. are collected. and came back at least an hour before the game started.
PCR tests are more accurate than the rapid tests, but they take much longer to process.
While Bioreference, which handles both of the daily tests the NBA already uses – PCR and a rapid test – remains the competition’s testing service, the goal in finding local tests in each city is to ensure that, in case there is a problem with the transport of tests, a backup option is available to make sure everyone is free to participate in that night’s competition.
Under the current system, to participate in a match, a player or referee must undergo a negative PCR test from the day before the match and a negative rapid test from the morning of the match. So, for example, players and referees participating in Thursday’s game between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers should undergo a negative PCR test on Wednesday and a negative rapid test on Thursday morning.
The reason the PCR test is from the day before is because there is about 12 hours of processing time for those tests, so the results usually come in at night. However, in cities where there is a Bio-Reference Laboratory, those test results can be converted more quickly.
The additional tests follow the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to tighten up the league’s health and safety protocols, including, among other things, shutting down rooms to non-team guests in hotels on the road, which the use of masks and further limitation of both team meeting times and player contact. All of this is being done as the NBA tries to play its season during a pandemic that continues to rage across the country and has significantly disrupted the league’s schedule in recent days.
The NBA has now postponed nine games this season, eight of them this week alone. Three of them were scheduled for Wednesday: the Orlando Magic at the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz at Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks at Phoenix Suns.
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