In his first public comments since testing positive for COVID-19, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert apologized on Instagram for his "careless" actions that exposed others to the disease, saying he hopes that his "story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously."
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I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of concern and support over the last 24 hours. I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis...mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment. The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. 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. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus . I am under great care and will fully recover. Thank you again for all your support. I encourage everyone to take all of the steps to stay safe and healthy. Love.
Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, causing the postponement of the Jazz's game against the Thunder seconds before the scheduled tipoff and the suspension of the NBA season soon thereafter. Teammate and locker room neighbor Donovan Mitchell also later tested positive, the only other member of the Jazz's traveling party to do so.
On Monday, Gobert jokingly mocked the NBA's temporary rules requiring media members to keep a 6- to 8-foot distance from players. Gobert, a Magic Johnson Award nominee last season due to his cooperation with the media, made a point to touch all the microphones and recording devices on the table in front of him after finishing his post-shootaround availability, which was set up in an interview room at the team's practice facility instead of the normal courtside area.
Gobert had a similar cavalier attitude in the locker room, Jazz players privately said, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. As with other NBA players, Gobert exchanged high-fives with teammates as usual in recent games despite the coronavirus crisis escalating into a pandemic.
Gobert began feeling symptoms Tuesday and was upgraded to questionable after he began feeling better Wednesday. He did not go to Chesapeake Energy Arena for the Jazz's shootaround or pregame, but Gobert hoped to play if the COVID-19 test was negative.
The test results confirming that Gobert had tested positive arrived just minutes before tipoff, according to Oklahoma's top health officials.
Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Gary Cox cannot, by law, use Gobert's name when discussing the case. Instead, he explained how, "the individual was ill and actually went to the hospital and saw a doc. The doc talked to their infectious disease physician who recommended testing and we did the testing in our [state] laboratory based on his recommendation."
The lab returned the test in the "normal amount of time," according to State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed. But the timing was such that the results were reported just after 6:45 p.m., or less than 15 minutes before the game was scheduled to begin. "A decision had to be made based on risk to the other players," Burnsed said.
"It happened incredibly quickly," Cox said. "The governor was at the game. The owner of the team was there. The NBA commissioner was involved. We all huddled up to figure out the best thing to do to balance this thing out."
The players were hustled off the court into a locker room.
"The dynamics with the Utah Jazz players are like a 'household type' of exposure," Burnsed said. Similar to a family, the players were "traveling together, on airlines and buses together, practicing together, in hotels together."
Based on how close the players get to one another both on and off the court, and the fact they're that close for prolonged periods of time, the team's physician in consultation with a local clinician and government health officials made the decision to test Utah's players.
"It was not a typical move," Burnsed said. The CDC and other health officials have been recommending someone should get tested if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and if they show symptoms.
Burnsed recommended that Gobert's teammates and others who came in close contact with him stay quarantined for 14 days. "We always go with the maximum time frame, which in this case is a 14-day incubation period."
No players from the teams that the Jazz played over the previous two weeks -- the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors -- have reported coronavirus symptoms. Several of those teams announced plans for the players to self-isolate. The Raptors, the Jazz's latest opponent on Monday, announced that their traveling party had been tested for COVID-19.
"We await those results," the Raptors' statement read, in part. "Our players, coaches and traveling staff have all been advised to go into self-isolation for 14 days, which means minimizing contact in accordance with public health guidelines. Our team doctors remain in communication with infection control specialists and public health authorities, and we will continue to abide by their advice."
Information from ESPN's Royce Young was used in this report.