NYC Mayor Slams NBA for Having Access to COVID-19 Tests

CBS News
March 18, 2020 - 11:02 am

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed NBA teams for having access to COVID-19 tests after four Brooklyn Nets players tested positive for coronavirus.

Teams including the Nets, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors say they have gotten tested for the deadly virus while a vast majority of Americans still haven't.

"We wish them a speedy recovery," de Blasio tweeted shortly after the Nets' announcement. "But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested. Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick."

Late Tuesday, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass addressed players' access to COVID-19 testing and suggested they might be a priority because of their contact with others and interactions with large populations.

"Public health authorities and team doctors have been concerned that, given NBA players' direct contact with each other and close interactions with the general public, in addition to their frequent travel, they could accelerate the spread of the virus," Bass said in a statement to ESPN. "Following two players testing positive last week, others were tested and five additional players tested positive. Hopefully, by these players choosing to make their rest results public, they have drawn attention to the critical need for young people to follow CDC recommendations in order to protect others, particularly those with underlying health conditions and the elderly."

The NBA has indefinitely suspended games after Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus last week. Teammate Donovan Mitchell and reportedly Pistons big man Christian Wood were also infected with COVID-19. The Nets announced four of its players tested positive for coronavirus Tuesday, without identifying the players. 

Kevin Durant, one of the league's biggest stars, said he was one of the Nets players who tested positive for the virus. "Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine," Durant told The Athletic. "We're going to get through this."

The White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday the nation's system of public and private laboratories are increasing their capacity to test patients amid the outbreak. Brett Giroir, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, said at a press briefing at least 60,000 tests have been conducted so far.

There are more than 7,200 cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 20 deaths linked to the virus in New York.

Testing in the U.S. remains scarce, but the nation's capability received a boost Friday when the FDA authorized labs to test using a "high-volume" system made by Swiss healthcare company Roche.