The NBA suspended its season last night after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. This followed a bizarre scene at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena that saw players shuttled off the court as the results of the test became clear. It was yet another clearly defined inflection point in a situation that's becoming exponentially serious.
Gobert's case is striking for many reasons. One of those reasons is that he made light of the coronavirus only days ago, going out of his way to touch every reporter's microphone or recorder.
Experts say that exposure like this is relatively low-risk. But spending 15-20 minutes in close proximity, shaking hands, and being near perspiration is a more serious prospect. To that end, all those who have done that in regards to Gobert were also tested.
It's a rather large circle, and it includes the media.
Sarah Todd of the Salt Lake City Desert News wrote a first-person piece on the experience.
"The NBA league office eventually contacted myself and the other reporters assuring us that as people who were in direct contact with Gobert and the team that we would be tested along with everyone else who had direct contact. In the grand scheme of things it took about six hours for the team, all the Jazz staff, the broadcast crew, and beat reporters to be tested, which doesn’t seem like a long time. But, those hours of unknown and confusion were unsettling."
"After being tested, an epidemiologist from the Oklahoma State Department of Public Health gave us an informational rundown on the virus, how it is spread, and what those who were tested on Wednesday night would be facing moving forward. To be clear, I am still at risk. I am awaiting the test results and even if they are negative I will be self-quarantined for two weeks because I could still develop symptoms and become infected."- Sarah Todd
The prevailing thought among NBA insiders only 24 hours ago was that the league would cease operations of a player contracted coronavirus and that's exactly what happened. There's simply no way to play the games with the amount of close, physical contact involved, let alone the idea that these players are going to be flying around in airplanes and potentially spreading it wherever they go.
But it's also important to consider that a team staff can be quite expansive.-- as well as the throng of media covering the team. The initial half-measure of playing contests in empty arenas in front of only essential personnel doesn't make much sense anymore considering what just happened with the Jazz and Jazz media.
If that plan is continued, though, it puts reporters and broadcasters in a tough spot. Being forced to travel and take on increased risk is an undesirable position. It's bound to be a point of employee-employer friction across industries for the next few months.
This is, quite obviously, a health story. Some of the more dramatic events have played through a sports prism. But it's also a financial and labor story -- and the unwritten chapters promise to be intense. There's a great rift between the bottom line and the responsible line.
Things will likely change dramatically by the minute and hour today. My guess -- as it's always been -- is that we'll look back and see how fruitless it was to believe things could go on with any semblance of normalcy.