It’s a good time to be a professional basketball propagandist.
Not one coronavirus case out of nearly 350 players, the NBA players’ union trumpeted in a July 20 press release. Then a second consecutive COVID-free week, and a second consecutive victory lap.
They are doing so well, in fact, that they now have testing kits to spare. The league, through its NBA Together charity arm, will provide free testing in Orlando, the bubble’s host city, and elsewhere throughout the country.
Fantastic news, right? Test scarcities in Florida and nationwide have been well documented, even as the pandemic began to “get worse before it gets better,” in the words of a certain citrus-hued fuckhead. At first glance, the NBA’s deep-pocketed contribution to this mess feels like a wonderful and welcome act of altruism. Surely even the most cynical among us would have to give props where they are due.
The NBA started moving its vulgar sideshow into town on July 7. What followed was effectively three weeks of radio silence. It was not until July 29 that the league chose to announce its grand charitable gesture. That’s 22 days of well-fed suits sitting on their hands as a plague cried havoc.
Here’s what happened to the NBA’s host state in that 22-day span:
- 237,724 residents were diagnosed with coronavirus
- 2,308 residents died of coronavirus
- Florida tallied its highest number of one-day coronavirus deaths, 134, on July 17
- Testing sites throughout the state, faced with widespread resource shortages, were forced to close
Sure could have used those tests a couple weeks ago.
The league also omitted a crucial detail from its announcement: turnaround time.
Florida, with its disproportionately high number of elderly residents, is taking anywhere between seven and 10 days to process a test. Sometimes even longer.
The danger here is obvious. Infected residents, either asymptomatic or not yet experiencing symptoms, are walking disease vectors. Every day they are left unaware of a diagnosis could be a day rife with face-to-face interactions, with each of those interactions representing a possible avenue of transmission.
NBA players, meanwhile — young and relatively low-risk athletes in peak physical condition — receive their test results in a mind-boggling 12 to 15 hours. That’s roughly 15 times faster than the general public.
You can have all the testing kits in the world at your disposal. But if you’re taking two weeks to process those tests, they’re barely helpful at all. A week can spell the difference between life and death, particularly for those over 50 and others with existing medical complications.
Will the NBA’s philanthropy mean a faster test turnaround for Florida residents? It’s unclear, but don’t get your hopes up. This announcement, as it concerns Florida, amounts to little more than PR damage control.
While they’re at it, though, they should send some test kits to Hong Kong.