Atlanta Dream players Glory Johnson and Kalani Brown tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month after they were inside the WNBA's bubble in Bradenton, Florida, and are still in quarantine outside of IMG Academy, it was announced Friday.
Both Johnson, a forward, and Brown, a center, will miss the start of the WNBA season Saturday, as will Dream guard Courtney Williams, who has not yet arrived in the bubble for unspecified reasons.
On Wednesday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said during a media teleconference call that only two players had tested positive since arriving at the bubble; those were Johnson and Brown, who were roommates when they got to IMG Academy.
Johnson, who turns 30 on Monday, is a seven-year WNBA veteran out of Tennessee who spent her career with the Tulsa/Dallas franchise before signing as a free agent with Atlanta in February. Brown, the No. 7 WNBA draft pick out Baylor in 2019, spent her rookie season in Los Angeles and then was traded in February to Atlanta. Brown, 23, helped lead Baylor to the national championship in 2019 and is the daughter of former NBA player P.J. Brown.
Johnson and Brown each tested negative three times before coming to IMG. All players and staff who came into the WNBA bubble in early July were quarantined for four days in their living areas, which consist of multi-bedroom villas and individual hotel rooms, as soon as they arrived.
Johnson said in a video that she released on Instagram on Friday, "As long as I've been trying to wrap my mind around where I could have contracted the virus between leaving home and arriving to IMG -- quarantined and masked up -- the fact of the matter is, it happened and there's no point in beating myself up for it. In quarantine, I've been focusing on self-care and resting my body for the upcoming WNBA season."
Once Johnson and Brown tested positive at IMG, they were moved to a hotel off-site and have been staying alone in individual rooms. Johnson, who tested positive on July 7, said in the video that she is "absolutely fine" and has experienced no symptoms at all. But Brown, who tested positive on July 9, said she has been ill.
"While I am feeling better now," Brown said in a statement, "my symptoms have been challenging, ranging from headache, to sore throat, chills/shivers, body aches, muscle aches, fatigue, difficulties with taste, and shortness of breath.
"I am still quarantined and unfortunately will be missing the start of season as I continue to fight this virus and hopefully fully recover. I am really looking forward to my first season with the Atlanta Dream, and cannot wait to join my teammates on the court once my health allows me to."
Atlanta coach Nicki Collen said she, other Dream staffers and the Dream players have been regularly checking in via Facetime with Johnson and Brown every day, as are medical personnel.
"They're not allowed to leave; they can have food brought in," Collen said. "It's just a really isolating situation, and they've had two very different experiences just with the virus itself. The good news is it was truly contained to that initial quarantine period."
During their time in quarantine outside IMG, Johnson and Brown are very limited in what they can do physically because of the potential impact of coronavirus on the heart. For any players who have tested positive inside or outside the bubble, a potential return to play involves following CDC protocol of about two weeks of quarantining, at least two negative tests, and a cardiac assessment.
Johnson said on the video that she now has had one negative test, so with another and the cardiac assessment, she could return to the bubble, and would not have to undergo further quarantine there. Collen said Brown, however, is still testing positive as of Friday.
"Although I didn't have the health scare that many others had, this experience was a shocking reminder of how valuable life is," Johnson said on the video. "And really a blessing that this happened to me -- not only when I was away from my family and children, but how thankful I was that it happened to me and not my family or my children. I don't put fault or blame on anyone because this is a job I had to do as a mother to provide for my children."
Johnson, who was briefly married to fellow WNBA player Brittney Griner in 2015, has 4-year old twin daughters.
The Dream, who open the season Sunday vs. the Dallas Wings, have 10 active players. On July 12, they were granted an emergency medical hardship for having less than 10, so they were then able to add free-agent Erica McCall.
Even when Johnson and Brown are able to return to action, it will take some time to rebuild their fitness level.
"It's up to us to support them," Collen said. "The last thing I'm going to do is get them injured when they get back because they're not ready. So we'll still kind of be in this return-to-play process of our own when we get them on court."
As for Williams, who also was traded to Atlanta in February after helping Connecticut reach the WNBA Finals last year, Collen could not comment on her situation except to say, "We are hopeful that she will be here very, very soon."