NBA the Example for Combating COVID-19

It is truly astounding when a professional sports league, instead of being the reward for a functional society, has to be the example of one.

The National Basketball Association announced this past week, their first week of regular season games since isolating their players in a bubble in Orlando to safely conduct games, that none of their 343 players tested positive for COVID-19 since tests were last announced on July 29. While some measures not available for mass production are being employed, such as the wearing of biometric devices to measure vital signs, the league’s early successes show the effectiveness of masks, social distancing and regular testing.

While Major League Baseball has already endured two team outbreaks as of the writing of this column due in part to scheduling a marathon of games with regular travel, the NBA appears to be on much better footing. This is not by accident.

While there have been publicized dissenting opinions on the seriousness of the virus even among NBA players, the league has given them few options other than to take the virus seriously. Anyone entering the bubble has to quarantine for up to 48 hours until they register two negative COVID-19 tests, and anyone who leaves the bubble and returns must quarantine for up to 10 days and undergo COVID-19 and antibody tests. Players stay in their own hotel rooms and all staff at their hotels are regularly screened as well.

Meanwhile in the MLB, at least some players have been handling COVID-19 with the same lack of seriousness that a decent segment of the U.S. population has over the past four months. With the virus being as contagious as it has proven to be, it doesn’t take many on a private team charter to suddenly have an entire roster in need of quarantine. Twenty-seven-year-old Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was even shut down for the season after developing a heart condition as a result of his bout with COVID-19. The idea that this virus only affects those in poor health or of advanced age is a myth, and Rodriguez’s experience should be a wake-up call to all inside and out of baseball.

Much like the country as a whole up until recently, Major League Baseball has trusted their players to “do the right things” to protect themselves and others. State, local and federal authorities have similarly held off on enforcing or implementing mask mandates out of either misguided trust or fear of losing their seats in power.

While individuals and politicians like to frame the wearing of masks as a freedom issue, their protests ring hollow. The only freedom those people are excising is the right not to care about a single person other than themselves. As the death toll rises above 150,000, it is beyond time to drop America’s freedom fetish and start presenting a more united front against COVID-19. 

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