NBA opts for fast, high-tech option for COVID testing


ASSOCIATED PRESS – If desired, an NBA player can now test themselves for the coronavirus and get results on their phone in under 20 minutes.

And the league is convinced that these tests are both fairly quick and fairly accurate.

It’s a high-tech answer to the problem of waiting for test results. The NBA has partnered with a company called Cue Health, which provides the league with technology that allows anyone to essentially test themselves for COVID-19. A person applies the swab inside their nose, places it in a reader – about the size of two decks of cards – connected wirelessly to their smartphone, and gets results much faster than most alternatives cannot provide it.

The NBA, based on a study by the Mayo Clinic, says tests are correct 97.8% of the time. Cue was in the process of using the technology for flu testing when the pandemic began, then quickly pivoted when the scope of the global fight against the coronavirus became clear.

“We were in clinical studies when COVID hit,” Cue CEO and co-founder Ayub Khattak said. “It was a pretty quick transition for us because the platform is really modular, so doing COVID-19 testing was relatively routine for us.”

Last season’s test results, in some cases, kept NBA teams and players waiting for hours.

The relationship with Cue and the league has now spanned parts of three seasons. It basically started when the league was making plans for the NBA reboot bubble to end the 2019-20 season, and technology has continued to evolve since. The test is of the molecular diagnostic type and is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We have a great deal of experience with the Cue test and are confident in its effectiveness in identifying cases where the test is needed in our highly vaccinated population,” said Jimmie Mancell, Memphis Grizzlies team physician and vice president of the NBA Physician’s Association. “The accuracy of the Cue test is more than acceptable for point-of-care testing because no test is 100% accurate. If clinical suspicion remains high, we are able to validate the results with further testing. “

As of now, it doesn’t seem likely that many NBA players will have to use the Cue Test on a regular basis.

Those who are fully vaccinated will not be tested regularly; only unvaccinated players – around 4% of the league, roughly one per team on average – will be tested on training, meeting and travel days. Match-day clearance for these players will still require a conventional PCR test.