As positive COVID-19 cases in the state of Florida continue to spike, ESPN has reported that there is concern among NBA personnel about the season resuming in Orlando.
Florida, which saw a single-day record of over 4,000 coronavirus cases on Saturday, will be the host state when the league returns to action in July. Though the 22 teams will live in a bubble in Orlando, there is a rising level of worry throughout the league as the situation in Florida continues to worsen, according to ESPN's Baxter Holmes and Zach Lowe.
ESPN reported that in a recent call that featured commissioner Adam Silver, he stated that the league will continue to move forward with their plans, but the seriousness of the recent COVID-19 spike is not something that can be ignored. Additionally, ESPN stated that a virtual town hall this week led to some players expressing concern about the fact that employees at the Disney World resort will be in and out of the bubble.
With teams set to report to Orlando in early July (7-9), besides the Toronto Raptors who will report during Phase 1 of the plan in June, the NBA has already released a detailed agenda of what the bubble situation will entail. Not only will teams be limited to the area of the resort and arenas, but constant testing will be done to ensure that any potential COVID-19 cases do not derail the season. Additionally, as players report to their individual team sites the last week of June, testing will be done there.
As for non-team personnel, the league has made sure to make interactions between players and the Orlando staff as safe as possible. Masks and social distancing will be required, and workers will not rotate between the three hotels. However, there is still some worry due to the fact that workers will head back-and-forth between the bubble and their homes in other areas, where surges have been more intense than Orlando.
"Everything that we know about Disney -- and we've read over the years -- is that you don't realize how many thousands of people work there, right? That's the magic behind it all -- the amount of staff and the amount of services that they provide. And they're in and out of the bubble," an athletic trainer told ESPN.
NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN that with the way Florida handled the reopening of the state, the current problems have not come as much of a surprise. The league has worked tirelessly to put measures in place to limit the travel of players, and if need be, will do the same for workers.
"While we take some solace in knowing our players will not travel commercially to get to Orlando, that access to the campus is severely limited and, of course, all of the other health and safety protocols in place, the numbers will keep our attention," Roberts said. "If necessary to add further restrictions respecting those third parties having access to the campus, we will seek to implement them."
Despite the current surge that has impacted numerous other leagues as well, the league is still moving forward with the return to play plan. There is concern, but also confidence that basketball will be able to be played in the coming months. Like everyone else, they will continue to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis.
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