My Personal Experience With Rudy Gobert And Coronavirus
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Wednesday night, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert received a preliminary positive result for coronavirus disease, otherwise known as COVID-19. As a result, the Jazz game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was called off. Less than an hour later, the entire remaining NBA schedule was postponed.
On Monday, Gobert answered questions from the media in Salt Lake City as the Jazz prepared to host the Toronto Raptors that evening. Gobert and the Jazz had recently returned from a seven-day four-game road trip on the East Coast that included stops in Cleveland, New York, Boston, and Detroit.
I was in the room for the now-infamous press conference in which Gobert discussed the virus, before making a point to touch the microphones on the table in front of him as if to laugh in the face of the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Before the press conference, Gobert and the Jazz had met with experts from the University of Utah in regards to how to limit exposure to the threat.
“Try to have some hygiene, a little more hygiene, especially with the hands” Gobert said of the recommendations given to the team regarding the virus, “We’ve just got to be prepared for anything and at the same time, keep doing what we do. There’s a lot of things we can’t control.”
Before the press was allowed to speak to Gobert, the team announced that press availability would be moved to the team’s conference room, rather than the practice floor where the interviews are traditionally held.
As a result, media members, myself included were asked to sit at a distance from Gobert and coach Quin Snyder as they were made available to the media.
After Gobert’s positive test, media members nationwide took to Twitter to attack the recklessness of the Jazzman’s actions.
In the video above, you can see me standing up directly in front of Gobert. My microphone was in my hand and not on the table. Though the league had requested that teams keep a safe distance between members of the media and the players and coaches, the mandate for such actions didn’t go in to effect that night for the games.
Despite Snyder speaking to the media at a safe distance immediately before the game, Raptors coach Nick Nurse wasn’t held to any precautionary standards.
After Wednesday night’s season postponement, I reached out to out the Utah Coronavirus Hotline to determine my risk to exposure having stood within a few feet of Gobert during the media session.
Initially, the operator on the hotline took my name, phone number, and zip code, and told me an epidemiologist would contact me sometime in the near future. In the meantime, it was suggested I isolate myself from others to limit risk of further exposure.
As of Thursday morning, I have not directly been contacted on the phone.
Later Wednesday evening I was able to reach two spokespeople from the Utah Department of Health. In an email, I was told my risk of exposure from the interaction with Gobert was low.
“Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 case, for 15 minutes or longer.” The email read, “In this particular instance, public health considers close contact to be an individual or 1:1 interview with Mr. Gobert or shaking hands and giving high fives with Mr. Gobert. We consider the incident where Mr. Gobert briefly touched the microphones after the press conference on Monday to be a low-risk exposure. ”
As a father, inevitably I’d been in close quarters with my children, including sharing food and drinks together.
I asked the Utah Department of Health at what risk I’d put my children after the press conference. As it turns out, my family members aren’t at significant risk to contract the virus.
“Our epidemiologists think your contact on Monday is a low-risk contact.” The email said, “There is definitely no need to keep your kids home.”
Ultimately, it seems the risk of exposure for myself and those I know is low, regardless of my interaction with Gobert and the manner in which he touched the microphones.
While Gobert’s actions certainly appear to be in poor taste in retrospect, in the moment it seemed like a casual affront to the longshot odds of contracting the virus, much less passing it on to those around him.
The Jazz center has a long history of positive interactions with the media, including being a finalist for the Magic Johnson Award by the Professional Basketball Writers Association given to players who best combine excellence on the basketball court and cooperation and dignity in dealing with the media and the public.
As information becomes available over the coming days about Gobert’s health and the NBA’s future, continuing to practice safe habits will be key. I didn’t expect to find myself so close to one of the first patients to be diagnosed in the state, much less video of my interaction with the player broadcast across national media.
I’m grateful to the Utah Jazz organization for installing changes in protocol when the first hint that coronavirus may have spread to the state was realized. Even with Gobert handling the microphones, it seems the organization’s actions were executed in a timely fashion that prevented further exposure.
It serves as a good reminder that by observing a few simple safety techniques, exposure to the threat can be limited, even when mistakes are made.
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How Do I Prevent It?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC does not recommend wearing a facemask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.
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