What We Learned from the NBA Bubble Experiment

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What We Learned from the NBA Bubble Experiment

A couple of months ago, the NBA embarked on their bubble experiment: an unprecedented plan in a very turbulent time. Commissioner Adam Silver announced that they had worked on a deal with Disney to use the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida.  

The scale was tremendous, with 22 teams being sequestered in 4 of Disney World’s premier hotels, along with staff and limited media. Face masks would be required everywhere and testing would occur at the start of every day. The plan was in place for sports to finally resume. 

From the start, the bubble experiment seemed to be doomed to fail. Florida was increasing in COVID-19 cases at the time of Silver’s announcement, peaking at over 1000 new cases in a single day. By the time the players and staff arrived in July, there were over 10,000 new cases each day. With so many moving parts in the middle of one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the US, it seemed to be only a matter of time before an outbreak occurred. 

Now, with two rounds of NBA playoff basketball completed, the bubble experiment has been a resounding success. After a couple positive tests from players entering the building, the bubble has had zero new cases throughout the eight weeks that it has been operational. In that same time, Florida alone has racked up over 250,000 new cases. By simply following the guidelines, the NBA has been able to revive a seemingly lost season, along with providing advocacy for the Black Lives Matter movement by giving its players a live platform.  

The NHL has also created a bubble to restart their season, with the notable difference being that two host cities were used in Edmonton and Toronto. Just like the NBA, the NHL has been able to keep an COVID-19 outbreak out of its bubble, with zero cases so far. The MLB, on the other hand, decided that the players would like to play at their home stadiums, regardless of fans present. No bubble was used, and most teams had little to no COVID-19 safety guidelines, and the results speak for themselves: 41 games were suspended with over 100 positive cases. The NFL has also decided to play in home stadiums and buck the bubble idea. With games starting this weekend, it will be interesting to see if, but most probably when players begin testing positive. 

The bubble experiments by the NBA and NHL are perfect examples of the necessity of following medical guidelines. By following guidelines prior to and during the time in the bubble, players have been able to avoid contracting coronavirus. While complete isolation is not a long-term solution to handling this new normal, this unique experiment proves that it is both possible to limit or even eliminate transmission of the virus while returning to semblance of “life as we knew it,” with conscious efforts to increase cleanliness and reduce interaction.  

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Zane Nogueras

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