The NBA tested 546 players for COVID-19 during the period from Nov. 24-30, and the results were not overly positive. Of those 546, 48 tested positive, the NBA and NBPA announced in a joint statement Wednesday. That is a positivity rate of 8.8 percent, below the 10.2 percent national average, according to Johns Hopkins. Still, the contrast between that percentage and what the NBA just experienced in its Orlando bubble is substantial. Once the season resumed at Disney, the league did not experience a single positive test in the bubble.
So far, it has topped that total by 48, and those numbers will surely grow. Players have returned to their markets and are doing individual workouts before team workouts at training camp begin on Dec. 6. Positive tests are on the rise nationwide and statewide restrictions are significantly looser than they were when the pandemic began. Most experts expect a very bad winter from the perspective of the virus. The NBA is beginning to experience that.
There is no way of knowing exactly how many players have already had the virus at some point or another. There have been 85 confirmed cases, according to The Wall Street Journal's Ben Cohen, but there is no telling how many players had the virus and simply didn't make it publicly known. Others could have been asymptomatic. Without knowing how long antibodies offer protection, there is also the possibility that some players catch the virus twice. In short, we don't really know how bad this is or will get.
The NBA feels comfortable playing basketball in light of the pandemic because of the relative health of its players. Most NBA roster spots are occupied by young and fit athletes who are less susceptible to the effects of the virus. That doesn't make them invulnerable, though. Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba is still dealing with symptoms five months after his diagnosis, for instance.
The 2020-21 season is going to look much more like the 2020 NFL season than the NBA's perfectly executed Disney bubble. Players are going to catch this virus. If today's numbers are any indication, a lot of them already have.