In June, the Mayo Clinic and Minnesota Timberwolves will lead a study that hopes to determine what percentage of NBA personnel have developed antibodies to the novel coronavirus, ESPN’s Malika Andrews reports.
According to Andrews, the study has garnered support from the league office and players’ union, and players, coaches, executives and staff from all 30 NBA teams will participate. The study will feature either a finger prick procedure or drawing blood through a vein — the former a marked step towards more rapid, accessible and remote (and thus, safer) antibody testing.
Volunteers from 26 of 30 MLB teams recently participated in a similar study, which found COVID-19 antibody prevalence in 0.7% of the league’s employee population — a figure lower than expert projections at the time — according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Per Passan, 70% of respondents who tested positive for antibodies were asymptomatic.
So, what does this mean for the NBA? Testing for antibodies is not the same as testing for COVID-19 infection or immunity. It is rather a means of collecting information on what percentage of NBA personnel might have contracted the virus (and, crucially, were asymptomatic) and how the virus has moved throughout the NBA world.
Multiple NBA players who have publicly announced they contracted COVID-19 have donated their blood plasma for antibody-related research, including Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics.
The NBA suspended play on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. As of this writing, eight days have elapsed since Adam Silver’s targeted two-to-four week timeline for a decision on the fate of the season was first reported.