TORONTO — Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park is billed as the “The Most Magical Place On Earth,” but National Basketball Association players arriving at the Florida resort on Wednesday to prepare for the restart of their COVID-19 season can expect something more dreary than fun.
Living for months in a quarantined bubble designed to shield them from Florida’s surge in novel coronavirus cases the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando will be home for some of the planet’s best-paid athletes.
Twenty-two teams began arriving on Tuesday, with staggered check-ins continuing through Thursday.
Upon arrival players will be quarantined in their hotel rooms for 36–48 hours. They will be limited to room service and must pass two tests 24 hours apart before being allowed to join teammates and begin training for the July 30 restart.
For some it will mark the beginning of a grinding three-month stay should their teams make it all the way to the Finals, which are scheduled to start Sept. 30 and could run as late as Oct. 13.
While spending three months inside Disney World might be a dream come true for millions of children, for many NBA players it will be an endurance challenge of daily testing, dealing with 113 pages of strict health and safety protocols, high-tech monitoring and separation from family and friends.
Players and coaches will all be required to wear face masks, along with a “proximity alarm” that will notify the wearer if they are within six feet of another person for more than five seconds.
The grumbling has already started. The Denver Nuggets’ Troy Daniels took to Instagram on Tuesday to post a picture of his first night meal, which more resembled a tray of airline food than the carefully prepared feast normally served to pampered athletes.
All this is happening as COVID-19 cases spike in Florida, where on Tuesday more than four dozen hospitals across 25 of 67 counties reported their Intensive Care Units had reached full capacity.
More than 130,000 Americans have died from the illness.
Cathal Kelly, sport columnist for Canada’s national newspaper the Globe and Mail, likened the NBA plan of coming together in Florida to “solving your radiation issue by huddling in Chernobyl.”
“This should work,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Fortune Brainstorm Health. “But we shall see.
“I’m confident based on the positive cases we are seeing from our players and the general public around the country that it will be safer on this campus than off this campus, in part because we are going to be doing daily testing.”
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber made the very same “no safer place” remark as his league prepared to resume play on Wednesday, also in Orlando.
Like the NBA, MLS has set up operations at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. But it has not been without bumps.
FC Dallas was forced out of the tournament on Monday after 10 players tested positive and several matches postponed or rescheduled. — Reuters