OKC Thunder: Rapid COVID-19 tests production could be the key to NBA return

OKC Thunder: Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver (L) and broadcaster Robin Roberts (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for TIME 100 Health Summit )
OKC Thunder: Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver (L) and broadcaster Robin Roberts (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for TIME 100 Health Summit ) /

As the heads of sports and President Trump seek a return resolution the approval of rapid test kits by two North American companies could be the key.

As the OKC Thunder and their counterparts remain at home safe distancing the heads of sports were convening via a conference call with the President for the second time in the last two weeks. The initial meeting occurred on April 4th and the second meeting took place on Wednesday afternoon.

Along with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, his counterparts including Gary Bettman (NHL), Rod Manfred (MLB), Roger Goodell (NFL), and others reconvened. In addition, prominent owners of teams partook in this call including Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots joined the approximate 20 people involved in the call.

The recurrent theme being President Trump’s desire to expedite getting teams back onto the hardwood, ice and fields as quickly possible. Obviously, the main criteria of safety will take precedent, however, there might be more reason for optimism today than even 24 hours ago.

Although it’s a daily exercise of vacillating back and forth on the subject of bringing sports back the one man who everyone has looked to throughout the pandemic seemed more optimistic yesterday than previously.

That person is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci. For all intents and purposes, Dr. Fauci has become the man many consider the foremost authority on the coronavirus.

In virtually every public address from the White House on COVID-19. he can be seen standing on the podium occasionally raising his hands to his face when the President says something not quite accurate or perhaps something not yet meant to be shared publicly.

Throughout the first month of the pandemic, Fauci has stuck to a more cautious note and didn’t seem as convinced sports would return anytime soon. But, in an interview Wednesday with Good Luck America, his stance seemed to shift somewhat stating there is a way for sports to return.

The caveats the Doctor provided:

  • fans definitely would not be in attendance
  • players and their families, team staff and all those required to air the games would need to be isolated at hotels between games and practices.
  • and, perhaps the most important point made is the need for frequent testing.

That last fact has always been the elephant in the room since tests for the virus haven’t been readily available, need time to process and labs to process them. More importantly, for as much as everyone would love to be able to escape for a few hours and get lost in live sports the reality is the tests are needed for those who are or might be sick and for those amazing individuals providing essential services.

Anyone who has taken the test has spoken of how uncomfortable it is. Charles Barkley described it as approximately a 12-inch cotton swab that is inserted toward the back of the nasal cavity to collect a sample. His test results took almost a week to process.

Clearly, these hurdles were a key red flag. Even as the curve flattens there will be a need for copious tests to be available as society begins to return to some semblance of normalcy.

For example, it’s reasonable to assume airports and traveling would be a logical place where tests would be required and the processing time would need to happen quickly.

To that end, another positive bit of news directly relates to this issue as two North American companies are set to produce rapid testing kits.

As per writer Andrew Russell of Global News, Spartan Bioscience, a Canadian company has developed a rapid response COVID-19 test. Although in its infancy, the test has been approved by Health Canada and this could eventually have far-reaching effects.

"The company’s device, the Spartan Cube, is a hand-held DNA analyzer that can provide COVID-19 test results in about 30 minutes. The small grey box — about the size of a coffee can — uses a throat swab created by the company, which is then placed into a single-use cartridge and inserted into the device…While there have been concerns with rapid testing in the U.K. and Spain, the Spartan cube uses an identical test that has been published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which has a 100-per cent accuracy rate according to Lem."

Another Global News article by Maryam Shah provides an update on the approval of the Spartan rapid test kit.

Russell also highlights Abbott Laboratories in Illinois is also producing a rapid test kit that produces results in approximately15 minutes. The pharmaceutical company is gearing up to produce and ship 50,000 kits a day.

What this means for OKC Thunder and NBA:

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With these companies ramping up their efforts to produce these rapid testing kits it lends itself to why those in the know seem more optimistic.

Assuming everyone other than essential services and employees will remain isolated and safe distancing for (at minimum) another six weeks that would afford these companies and potentially others to mass-produce the rapid tests.

Again, making sure societal needs are met first, these rapid test kits could pave the way for the priority on that list above to be checked off.

Recalling the fact several teams paid for and used private labs to process their tests early in the pandemic there is also the potential for the major sporting leagues to do the same thing now that the technology exists.

There are still a number of hoops to jump through (no pun intended) but this is positive news both in terms of societal needs and how it could impact the NBA (OKC Thunder) and other sports targeting a return date.

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As always, stay safe and healthy.