Deseret News’ Sarah Todd Recounts Coronavirus Scare In Oklahoma City

Mar 15, 2020, 2:26 PM | Updated: 2:51 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – While Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz were at the center of one of the most significant nights in sports history, standing on the floor in Oklahoma City when the NBA canceled their game against the Thunder just before tip-off, Deseret News reporter Sarah Todd was in the arena’s media seating wondering why the game had been delayed.

One of the most surreal nights I’ve ever had,” Todd said, “It was very weird at first there was a lot of chaos on the court before the players walked off, we didn’t know why they walked off.”

As the entire sports world would learn in short order, Gobert had tested positive for coronavirus, the first high profile American athlete to contract the illness, giving a face to what had previously been a phantom paranoia rather than a stark reality.

“We were waiting for league confirmation for the game to start,” Todd recounted, “I’ve been covering the NBA for 8 years and I’ve never hard that before so we knew something different was happening.

Within the hour, the entire NBA season had been suspended as a result of Gobert’s positive test, which gave way to one of the most chaotic 24 hour stretches the world of sports has ever seen.

The NCAA would cancel both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, sacrificing billions of dollars in the name of public safety. Major League Baseball canceled it’s remaining preseason games, and suspended the beginning of the regular season. The NHL, like the NBA, put its remaining schedule on hold.

But while the nation’s leagues were grappling with their own immediate future, Todd was coming to grips with her own reality.

“Once the news came down that it was Rudy Gobert that had tested positive for COVID-19,” Todd said, “Then it became – okay, I am in contact with this guy on a daily basis, do I need to be concerned?”

Just as the nation was wondering what the NBA was going to do next, Todd was left scrambling on what she needed to do to ensure her own safety.

“There was a lot of non-communication for a few hours,” Todd remembered, “Eventually we got word that us, the traveling writers would be tested with the rest of the team.”

In total, 58 members of the Jazz organization and traveling media were tested for the virus, resulting in two positive tests. One to Gobert and one to fellow Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell. Unlike some routine medical tests, the COVID-19 screening takes several hours.

While Todd was tested for the virus at Chesapeake Energy Arena around midnight in Oklahoma City, she wouldn’t know the results of the test until the next morning.

“I got out of the arena a little after 1 a.m. and then went to a hotel and started writing and fielding interviews,” Todd said of her evening, “ I found out a little after 9 a.m. local time in Oklahoma that I had tested negative. Then I waited to get word on how we were going to get home which ended up on the charter flight with the team” 

While Todd and the players and team employees who tested negative for the virus were flown back to Utah, Gobert and Mitchell would have to wait in Oklahoma City for a medivac plane to fly them to Utah safely.

Inevitably, Gobert became the target of sports fans online as the cause of the league’s sudden hiatus, something Todd argued against.

“In regards to [Gobert] getting any sort of vitriol online or from fans for potentially spreading this, it’s spreading everywhere,” Todd said, “It was only a matter of tie that it was going to happen for someone within the public eye.”

In fact, Todd said Gobert may deserve indirect credit for helping the country.

“I think it’s a little bit silly that we’re pointing fingers at him when it’s possible that him testing positive potentially could have saved a lot of people,” Todd mentions of Gobert’s butterfly effect, “It started a domino effect of shutting down huge gatherings and keeping people away from each other.”

During the Gobert and Mithell were quarantined in Oklahoma, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that a rift had formed between the two Jazz All-Stars due to the carelessness with which Gobert treated the many warnings about the virus.

While Todd didn’t deny that there may be tension, she didn’t see cause for any added concern from Jazz fans.

Any tension outside of anything that is basketball related, those are normal tensions that happen within the season or any professional sport,” Todd said, “Obviously there’s going to be some frustration for anyone that is positive or for being in danger of testing positive for this virus.” 

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  • 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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Deseret News’ Sarah Todd Recounts Coronavirus Scare In Oklahoma City