Why it only took one player with coronavirus to shutter sports

Recent research suggests that the virus transmits most easily through “prolonged, unprotected contact,” so it’s not particularly likely that the virus was transmitted to any of the players or employees of the teams against which the Jazz played, nor those who work in their respective arenas. But it is possible, so the utmost caution is warranted. That’s especially true because while most professional athletes are not in the age range at risk of the most severe outcomes, many coaches, staffers and arena workers are. And the close quarters of athletic competition leaves people — players, coaches, executives, arena workers and fans alike — vulnerable to community spread…

But while no further coronavirus cases have been reported in the NBA, the potential effects of Gobert and Mitchell contracting the virus stretch beyond the league itself: The Jazz played three games in NBA arenas that are also home to NHL squads, and they played a home game against an NBA team that shares an arena with the NHL team in its city. The Knicks and Rangers both play in Madison Square Garden; the Celtics and Bruins both play in TD Garden; and the Pistons and Red Wings both play in Little Caesars Arena.1

It seems unlikely that any of those hockey teams had direct contact with Gobert, Mitchell or anybody else from the Jazz’s traveling party. But the virus can live on surfaces for days, and road teams in the NBA and NHL often use the same locker room in opposing arenas. That means the NHL teams that played in Boston, New York and Detroit in the days following the Jazz’s visit to those cities and may have touched the same surfaces as either Gobert or Mitchell could conceivably be affected as well.2