The Golden State Warriors have presented a plan to state and local officials to reopen Chase Center to fans at 50% capacity for the 2020-21 NBA season, ESPN reported.
Owner Joe Lacob said the team could spend upward of $30 million to test “every fan, Warriors employee and player with the most accurate form of COVID-19 testing for each home game or day they come to Chase Center.”
Lacob, who has a master’s degree in public health, believes the team’s plan could serve as a template for all sports franchises and entertainment venues looking to bring back fans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I not only want to get this done and show the world how we can do it now, I’m willing to spend the money to do it,” Lacob told ESPN. “This is a serious, serious problem. It cannot go on for multiple years … because if this were to go on for several years, the NBA is no more.”
The Warriors’ plan, internally referred to as “Operation DubNation,” has been in the works since the NBA first shut down in March.
It entails the use of rapid PCR tests or “equivalent amplification technologies” that can detect traces of the virus in nasal or throat swabs within 15 minutes — and are more accurate than rapid antigen tests. PCR tests are said to be close to 99% accurate and can even detect the virus before it becomes infectious, whereas rapid antigen tests — which are what the White House has been using — could miss a significant portion of people who could be infectious.
The PCR tests, however, are considerably more expensive than rapid antigen tests, and less readily available. But Mesa Biotech, Visby and CUEHealth have recently earned FDA approval to manufacture the tests and are “ramping up in volume of production,” according to ESPN.
Fans would get tested at the Chase Center or at other drive-up locations around the Bay Area within 48 hours of the game they planned to attend. The team has partnered with CLEAR, the company that uses technology to identify pre-approved air travelers, to “link test results to the ticket holder on a mobile device.”
Everyone entering Chase Center would also wear a mask and maintain social distance. The Warriors would install a state-of-the-art air filtration system capable of purging 100% of the Chase Center’s air supply and replacing it with 100% outside air up to four times per hour.
“The White House used less sensitive tests, meaning that they’re going to have more false negatives,” Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF who has reviewed the Warriors’ plans, told ESPN. “The Warriors are planning on using the most accurate, most sensitive tests we have, and that’s a big difference. I don’t think anybody else could do anything more than they’ve done. This is as close to making it as close to perfect a plan as I’ve seen for anything reopening.”
On Nov. 11, the NBA sent teams a memo with guidelines for potentially having fans in arenas next season — only some areas of the country are currently allowing fans to attend sporting events. Those guidelines require testing of fans seated within 30 feet of the court, with the testing occuring no more than two days before the game.
California has yet to approve fans to be at indoor events, and restrictions are tightening further in San Francisco after a rise in cases locally and throughout the state. The Los Angeles Lakers have already said that 2020-21 season games at Staples Center will be held without fans until further notice.
But without in-person fans, the NBA has told teams it is facing a projected 40% loss of revenue, or around $4 billion. Lacob said his plan “is not the Warriors just trying to make more money,” but rather, he’s trying to establish a standard for the sports world.
“You cannot sustain this league with no fans. You can do it for a year. We’ll all get by for a year. But suppose we’re in this situation next year. Now we’re talking some serious, serious financial damage to a lot of people,” Lacob said. “There’s so many reasons why we have to figure out ways, short of the vaccine being a cure-all, to allow people to get back to work, allow people to work at our venues. There’s thousands of people, 500 Warrior employees and 1,500 on a game day, but beyond that, there’s all the vendors. There’s so many people that are relying on this and don’t have jobs.”