OKC Thunder: Could spiking COVID-19 cases in Florida spell trouble?

OKC Thunder: A man wearing a protective facemask sits in the empty stadium (Photo by WOLFGANG RATTAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: A man wearing a protective facemask sits in the empty stadium (Photo by WOLFGANG RATTAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /
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OKC THunder, LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL – MARCH 20: General view of Walt Disney World Resort (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

A spike in Florida COVID-19 cases begs the question if the NBA erred by putting all their eggs in one basket.

As the OKC Thunder ramp up efforts to resume play in Orlando the massive spike in Florida COVID-19 positive tests is cause for concern.

There is no question the NBA and National Basketball Players Association has worked tirelessly since mid-March to bring basketball back. Initially, the pandemic made a quick return impossible, and while the stakeholders awaited the curve to flatten they developed plans to restart the season.

The two venues noted as most viable for a return were Las Vegas and Orlando. The latter became more appealing due to the ability to utilize ESPN’s Wide World of Sports area at Walt Disney World and function within a campus-style bubble.

Florida is now a national hot spot for COVID-19:

But, as teams near the date when they’ll move to Disney the rising cases in Florida have to serve as a warning. Last week Thursday through Saturday Florida suffered three successive record-highs for new cases. Those numbers ranged from 3,207 to 3,822 and 4,049 respectively.  Sunday (3,494) and Monday (2,926) the numbers regressed but are still in an unfavorable territory.

It is clear why these numbers are concerning given the new cases have ballooned from the start of the month when 667 new cases were noted on June 1st.

Some are citing the increased number of tests as the reason but the percentage of positive tests should be the greater focus. Prior to this recent surge, the high mark for positive tests was April 26th (6.1 percent). Almost two months later the results are the same 6.19 percent.

Consider total cases for the country of Canada is 103,418. In comparison, the State of Florida’s total is 100,217. Again, say what you will about the number of tests being conducted but there are other relevant factors.

For example, Toronto performed 21, 900 tests on Sunday resulting in 161 new cases or 0.7 percent. I couldn’t find the specific number of tests taken in Florida that produced the 2,926 new cases on Monday. However, a June 20th  article in the Miami Herald by Lawrence Mower noted 12.3 percent of tests are producing positive results.

"The World Health Organization has said that in countries that have conducted extensive testing for COVID-19, the rate of positive cases should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days before loosening social-distancing requirements. Over the past 24 hours in Florida, 12.3% of the new tests were positive."

Monday on the ESPN First Take show the panel was discussing the situation in Florida. An owner messaged Stephen A. Smith while they were on the air stating “there is no other option to  Orlando”.  Having no contingency plan is the one area of the entire process Adam Silver missed the mark on.

In comparison to another similar sports league, the NHL has yet to name their two bubble sites. As of Monday, the NHL had narrowed the two bubble venues to six locations with three Canadian markets (Toronto, Vancouver, and Edmonton) and three U.S. markets.  The prevalent thinking is Vegas (the only known U.S. option publicly disclosed) will be one of the two bubble sites.

With all six sites meeting the needs of rinks, isolation in a bubble, and the other topline criteria the one thing analysts believe will tip the selection is where each state and province are in their coronavirus efforts. The NBA in comparison only ever considered two sites and once they elected to go with Orlando they put all their eggs in that basket.

In hindsight, the easy answer is perhaps the league should’ve had more than a few options both in the U.S. and Canada. To that end, Stephen A. Smith suggested the NBA should consider New York given where the state is in the restart phase of the pandemic. But, with that one message from the NBA owner, clearly, it’s Orlando or bust.