The NBA season restarted with 22 teams convening at Disney World in Orlando. The league implemented strict protocols to keep COVID-19 at bay. Some rules shocked NBA players. But they aren’t the only ones who must adjust virtually every aspect of their lives to stay safe. The bubble also contains a small group of sports journalists. Let’s look at life in the Orlando bubble for reporters and other staff.
Preparing for life in the bubble
Only a small number of the NBA journalists received approval to enter the Orlando bubble — around 15, according to The Miami Herald. Before those reporters could get to work talking to players and watching games, however, they had to go through a strict preparation process. First, they had to quarantine for seven days before arriving at the campus.
Then they had to quarantine for another seven days on-site. During that time, the journalists remained strictly confined to their hotel rooms. Staff would drop food outside the door each day, and medical personnel would administer a daily COVID-19 test. Only after a week of negative results were reporters allowed to leave their rooms.
Even then, journalists do not have complete access to the campus or the players. They’re prohibited from approaching coaches or athletes for interviews in the hotels or on the grounds. That can prove tricky since the hotel lobbies where the players and journalists stay are conjoined. Reporters find themselves frequently bumping into players.
Other aspects of daily life in the bubble
Journalists and non-player staff are expected to conform to a number of other protocols as well. They’re required to wear a proximity sensor, a special device that beeps if two people with sensors come within six feet of one another. For players, those proximity sensors are optional. From reports so far, few players are choosing to wear them.
One of the first things reporters do each day is self-administer a basic health screening, measuring their body temperature and oxygen saturation levels. In order to pass through checkpoints, they must upload this info to a special app. At 9 a.m., they must also submit to a coronavirus test consisting of three throat swabs and two nasal swabs.
You’d think that with the many rules journalists face in the bubble — not to mention being away from their families for months — they wouldn’t be optimistic about the assignment. That isn’t the case, however. Most reporters seem grateful to be on-site. The Athletic’s Joe Vardon described it as possibly “the last, great American sportswriting assignment.”
A shining success so far
Ask anyone in the NBA how they feel about the success of the bubble, and they’ll likely give you a cautious reply. That’s because they know full well that things could go wrong at any moment. A single outbreak of the virus could be enough to bring the entire playoffs to a grinding halt.
Yet if you zoom out, it becomes clear that the NBA’s model has been a success. Through the first five weeks and counting, reports CBS Sports, not a single player has tested positive for COVID-19. To understand how impressive that is, just compare it to problems faced by MLB. Baseball failed to even make it to the two-week mark before outbreaks crippled entire teams.