Police chief calls on Trump administration to prioritize coronavirus tests for first responders over NBA players

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In a call between the International Association of Chiefs of Police and officials from both the White House and Homeland Security, a Bay Area police chief called on President Donald Trump’s administration to prioritize coronavirus tests for first responders over NBA players, per ABC News.

“If we’re quarantining [our] people for 14 days … we’re going to lose our first responders,” Vacaville, California, police chief John Carli reportedly said on the call. “And we have to, at a national level, get the support down to the local level. Stop testing NBA players, and start testing our first responders.”

The positive coronavirus test for Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert prior to a March 11 road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder effectively halted the NBA season and helped bring the severity of the pandemic into a national focus. The entire traveling contingent of the Jazz organization was then tested, resulting in the positive test of Donovan Mitchell. The 58 tests reportedly exceeded half of the daily allotment for the entire state of Oklahoma. Since then, a dozen more NBA players from six other teams have tested positive, including Kevin Durant, Marcus Smart and Christian Wood.

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NBA teams came under criticism for procuring tests for players and personnel staff — many of whom have not been symptomatic of COVID-19 — during a nationwide shortage that has resulted in health officials asking otherwise healthy individuals to avoid testing in hopes of servicing those in most need. A number of NBA tests were reportedly facilitated by state officials. The Brooklyn Nets, who announced four positive player tests last week, secured their tests through a private company.

The NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
The NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

“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,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said last week in a statement. “Following two [Jazz] players testing positive, others were tested and five additional players tested positive. Hopefully, by these players choosing to make their test 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.”

Likewise, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN last week that he understands the criticism of eight full teams procuring tests, but the league was following directives from public health officials, especially in the case of the Jazz. Silver also said the NBA testing raised awareness for the issue.

When asked whether the testing for asymptomatic athletes is evidence that “the well-connected go to the front of the line,” Trump told reporters, “No, I wouldn't say so. But perhaps that's the story of life. That does happen on occasion, and I’ve noticed where people have been tested fairly quickly.”

The question arose after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted critically on March 17 in response to testing of the Nets organization, “Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings are among teams that avoided organization-wide testing due to the scarcity of tests in California, where all non-essential workers have been asked to stay home except for their food and healthcare needs.

“We’ve been told that the testing is in short supply,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said on a conference call, suggesting no members of the organization would be tested for the coronavirus without showing symptoms. “We’re not better than anybody, not worse. Just a basketball team.”

Meanwhile, thousands of first responders are reportedly under quarantine due to their heightened exposure. However, Dr. Alex Eastman of the Dallas Police Department warned on Friday’s call against excessive testing for asymptomatic officers as well, per ABC News. Other officials on the call reportedly suggested routine traffic stops and non-violent arrests should be restricted while officers prioritize the critical care of citizens and the enforcement of coronavirus-related mandates.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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