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2 Utah Jazz Stars Test Positive For Coronavirus


The NBA was the first American sports league to suspend its season after a basketball player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus. Today, the team announced that a second player has tested positive.

We're joined now by Jazz beat reporter Eric Walden, who covers the team for the Salt Lake Tribune. He's in self-quarantine at home in Utah after his exposure to those players. Thank you for joining us.

ERIC WALDEN: Thank you for having me, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Let's begin with the news about the Jazz. Do you have any information about how the players were exposed to the coronavirus? What happened when the first player tested positive?

WALDEN: There is no news yet as to how they were exposed. In terms of how the first player tested positive, he had, upon arriving in Oklahoma City, developed flu-like symptoms. He was tested for flu and several other things, and when those tests came back negative was given a test for COVID-19. When the test for that came back positive shortly before the game was supposed to tip off, the players on the teams declined to play.

SHAPIRO: And do you know what the rest of the players and the staff are doing now?

WALDEN: As I understand it, Rudy Gobert, who was the first to test positive, and Donovan Mitchell, who was the second to test positive, are being kept quarantined in Oklahoma City. The rest of the team is on its way back to Salt Lake City.

SHAPIRO: Do you understand how an NBA team got its hands on dozens of tests very quickly when so many Americans are reporting difficulty getting testing?

WALDEN: It's my understanding that once a positive test came back for Rudy Gobert, that the Oklahoma Department of Health was then called into the scene to do emergency testing on both the remaining players of the Utah Jazz and their traveling party, which included broadcasters and media, but to do the same for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had concerns about the exposure as well.

SHAPIRO: And now I'd love to talk about your own experience because as a reporter covering this team, you've potentially been exposed to the coronavirus. It seems that this started when Rudy Gobert gave a press conference on Monday, where he talked about the coronavirus.


RUDY GOBERT: I mean, we just got to be prepared for anything. And at the same time, keep living and keep doing what we do. You know, there's a lot of things we can't control, so we'll see what happens.

SHAPIRO: And then afterwards, as a joke apparently, he touched all the microphones and recorders in front of him, including yours. What went through your mind when he was doing that?

WALDEN: You know, I laughed. Everyone in the room laughed. Rudy has a little bit of a cheeky personality. I viewed it as him doing it in kind of a means of solidarity, that I am not afraid that these media members who are assembled here are going to give me COVID-19.

SHAPIRO: And when you heard that has result had come back positive?

WALDEN: Well, obviously that changed things. I was out at a public event with my son. And when I was checking Twitter and saw his positive test, I told my son we have to leave right now because, you know, I had had that exposure to him. Yeah, there - I have to admit there was a little bit of fear at that point, just of the unknown.

SHAPIRO: And now?

WALDEN: Now I have not had access to a test because I am asymptomatic at present. It creates a little bit of lingering doubt in your mind. You know, I would love to have the reassurance of being able to take a test and have it come back negative. But in the meantime, I've been advised by my primary care physician to stay quarantined in my home for the next two weeks.

SHAPIRO: Eric Walden covers the Utah Jazz for the Salt Lake Tribune. He is now in a self-quarantine after two players on that team tested positive for coronavirus. Thank you, and hang in there.

WALDEN: Thank you so much, Ari.


And we should note that Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert has apologized for his actions on Instagram this evening, writing, quote, "at the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.