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#pounditThursday, September 24, 2020

Oklahoma used 58 coronavirus tests on the Utah Jazz, but the decision made sense

Rudy Gobert

The statistics surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the United States, are difficult to quantify, largely because there is not enough testing available to confirm cases. That’s one reason why social distancing is strongly encouraged to proactively help prevent the spread of the virus.

The limited amount of available tests has also led to questions about why such a disproportionate amount were used on an NBA team.

On Friday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne published a look inside how the NBA came to the decision Wednesday night to suspend the season. The decision was made after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who was previously listed as out for that evening’s game due to illness, tested positive for the coronavirus.

After Gobert tested positive, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver knew right away that the season would have to be suspended. Players from both the Jazz and Thunder were pulled off the floor immediately. Jazz players were given masks and gloves and told to wait in the locker room.

According to the ESPN article, Oklahoma state officials arrived to test all 58 members of the Jazz’s traveling party. At the time, the state health department only had the capacity to run about 100 tests per day. The state was down to a supply of about 250 total tests as of Thursday, State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said via The Oklahoman. But they received 500 more on Friday.

So why were so many tests used on one NBA team’s traveling party?

Here are some answers.

First, having one famous NBA player test positive increased nationwide awareness for the issue on an enormous scale. Secondly, you have to start somewhere you think the virus is present and work to stop it. That’s what the officials were doing with the Jazz.

Finally, members of NBA teams are in close contact with each other, trainers, coaches, fans, referees, game officials, media members, arena staffers, and many more on a daily basis, and they travel from city to city. They can spread a virus much more readily than someone from any one community in Oklahoma, who doesn’t do much more than go to and from work most days.

One of the main jobs of a state health department is to act in the interest of the health of the people. Even if they used a high proportion of tests on one team, it was a wise decision.

This isn’t about elitism or professional athletes getting favorable treatment because they’re more important. This is about problem solving: how do we stop the spread of this virus most effectively with limited resources? And the answer is to try stopping those with the ability to contact the greatest amount. I believe the state accomplished this goal in an effective manner.

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