As the NBA continues to deal with reality by trying to play the regular season 2020-21 in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league sent a note to the teams Wednesday night detailing plans to try to supplement that test, which was already in place for players and referees with localized game day testing in all 28 NBA cities.
The memo, a copy of which was retrieved by ESPN, asks each team to spend the next two days finding local test providers; the league plans to discuss these findings with the teams over the weekend with the aim of starting conducting the extra tests sometime next week. The intention is to find a local polymerase chain reaction (PCR) provider that can pass at least 40 tests ̵
PCR tests are more accurate than rapid tests, but it takes much longer to process them.
While BioReference – which handles both the daily tests that the NBA already uses (PCR and a quick test) – will continue to be the league’s testing service, the goal of finding local tests in each city is to ensure that in the event of a problem with the transport of tests, there is a backup option available to ensure that everyone is ready to participate in tonight’s games.
Under the current system, players or referees participating in a game must have a negative PCR test from the day before the game and a negative quick test from the morning of the game. So, for example, players and referees participating in Thursday’s game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers will have to take a negative PCR test on Wednesday and a negative quick test taken on Thursday morning.
The reason why the PCR test is from the day before is that there is approximately 12 hours of treatment time on these tests, so the results typically come in overnight. However, in cities where there is a BioReference laboratory, these test results can be reversed more quickly.
The additional test comes in the wake of the NBA and National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday agreeing to tighten the league’s health and safety protocols, including closing rooms for non-team guests at hotels on the road, increasing the use of masks and further restrictions 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 disrupted the league’s schedule over the past few days.
The NBA has now postponed nine games this season, including eight this week alone. Three of them were scheduled for Wednesday: the Orlando Magic of the Boston Celtics; Utah Jazz at the Washington Wizards; and the Atlanta Hawks in the Phoenix Suns.