This is the third of several articles about COVID-19 and related topics by Dr. Jon Crosbie, an ISU alum, sports fanatic and all-around awesome Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.
*Note – I discussed this post with my patient, read it to them, and asked for permission to post it. They very emphatically said yes please do, as they were pretty frustrated with the testing situation.*
So I just had a very unfortunate experience. A patient presented via telehealth appointment with a temperature of 100.0, bad cough, dry scratchy throat, and generally feeling awful. They called the state testing facility, who told them that they don’t qualify for testing. This patient does not know their SARS-CoV-2 status.
That’s a thing that happened on May 8th, 2020.
They’ve been feeling ill for a week and, fortunately for all of you, this patient has been quarantining properly at home as soon as symptoms started. Obviously, I’m playing the pronoun game so you don’t even know this patient’s gender, but just briefly take a moment to thank this patient for doing the right thing.
Also take a moment to recognize that as the country is encouraged to open back up, the testing frequency is pathetic.
So what’s Rudy Gobert have to do with this? If you don’t know. Rudy Gobert plays center for the Utah Jazz. He’s pretty good too – he was an All-Star this year and won NBA defensive player of the year, two years in a row.
Anyways, that’s his bonafides. If you don’t follow basketball, you probably still know who he is…Rudy Gobert was the one touching all the microphones at the press conference. Back in March, Gobert was making light of the coronavirus pandemic at a press conference and as a joke, he got all handsy with the audio equipment to mock the big deal everybody was making about COVID-19. You know how this goes; two days later he tested positive for coronavirus, right before tip off against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The NBA suspended their season that night.
Turned out, this was a good idea by the NBA. His teammates, most notably stud-duck point guard Donovan Mitchell, tested positive, as did people he played against. Now here’s the thing: The rest of sports were essentially waiting to see what the NBA would do…after the NBA suspended play, the NCAA cancelled their conference tournaments along with Spring Sports and March Madness, the NHL pressed pause, the XFL suspended play, and sports basically shut down. And I was very sad.
Rudy Gobert, not surprisingly, took a fair amount of heat for this. He got dragged on social media because OF COURSE he did and, to his credit, tried to make amends by donating a half a million dollars to charities helping people affected by SARS-CoV-2. He apologized to everybody for being reckless and irresponsible and, after all, he had no idea he was infected.
He never developed severe symptoms, nor did his teammates, nor did really any of the NBA players that got infected from what I read. And I remember reading on social media comments like “why are these NBA players getting tested when they don’t even have symptoms and I can’t get tested and I’m coughing?!?”
I can certainly understand why people would be frustrated that an asymptomatic rich person would get tested. Many people feel this underscores a humanistic flaw in the United States’ health care system – rich people get treatment and poor people don’t. That argument is certainly worthwhile, but that’s another post for another day (and quite honestly probably another author as well…I just don’t have the resolve to tackle that one).
However, I want you think about what would have happened if he wasn’t tested.
If Rudy Gobert doesn’t get tested and goes on about his week, and the NBA keeps going, probably so do the NCAA conference tournaments. People from all over the Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac 12, Big East, A10 (basically the entire country) gather together in arenas, packed shoulder to shoulder, high-fiving and hugging, shouting and screaming and shooting droplets into the air of a closed space. That was the week of March 9th.
The week of March 16th, the NCAA tournaments would have started. The same people excited about conference championships have had a week to incubate things inside their bodies and now they’re going to go to a different tournament, high fiving and hugging and yelling and screaming and shooting droplets in the air. And the NBA would have kept going, though at that point it’s reasonable to think that other NBA players would have started getting sick and getting tested. But the NBA would have likely gone on for another week, as would have the NHL.
This should be chilling to you. Think about the spread that could have happened. Imagine if Rudy Gobert hadn’t acted like a jackass and touched all the microphones to make light of everything. Imagine if the NBA hadn’t said “let’s test him, just in case…we don’t want this to blow up ugly and make us all look bad instead of just Rudy Gobert.”
Imagine if Rudy Gobert had been treated like my patient this morning.
Imagine all the infected people who *haven’t* been as responsible as my patient.
Imagine if all those people had gotten together at the tournaments, then went back to their communities having no idea that, like Rudy Gobert, they were carrying SARS-CoV-2.
Just think on it a bit.
Dr. Jon Crosbie, D.O., is a Physician and Assistant Professor at Des Moines University Medical School