The Philippine Star
September 10, 2021 | 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — Orthopedic surgeon, PBA medical consultant and FIBA medical commission member Dr. Jose Raul Canlas said yesterday the process to hold down the incidence of COVID-19 positive cases will continue to be tedious with cooperation among the pro league’s teams critical in making sure safety protocols are strictly observed.
At the moment, Meralco and Alaska are not in the PBA schedule from last Wednesday to this Sunday to complete their health protocols. NorthPort skipped the schedule from Sept. 1 to 5 for a similar reason but is now back in action although team manager Bonnie Tan has taken over head coaching duties in the interim while the coaching staff finishes its safety measures. Everyone involved in the conference is RT-PCR tested on Monday before the week’s games begin on Wednesday. Antigen tests are administered to teams, officials and crew each game day.
“The PBA is trying to live and function with the virus,” said Dr. Canlas. “The zero COVID approach is slowly being debunked because it seems that the virus will be around for a while. Think of the different professional leagues in the US and even the Olympics. The advantage is the PBA has a relatively small controlled population that is by and large vaccinated, young and healthy. Also it has the resources to do multiple tests, both PCR and antigen, to keep track of infectiousness and infected individuals.”
In the Tokyo Olympics, strict protocols were imposed, resulting in a low rate of positive cases. The organizing committee reported only 28 of 11,000 athletes tested positive from July 1 to Aug. 8. The total was 430 including media, games-concerned personnel, employees, contractors and volunteers. The estimate was 80,000 congregated in Tokyo for the Olympics. The zero approach was an impossibility.
Dr. Canlas said basic precautions are crucial. “Mask wearing is probably the most important,” he said. “What I feel is a good sign is that there has been no team infecting another through games. Infections have been within teams. I think all future activities, whether in business or sports, will have to follow a similar template. It’s going to be a tedious process but if everyone cooperates, it should be successful.”
Dr. Canlas said each team’s health protocol officer plays a key role. “With fully-vaccinated players, the difference is the importance of symptoms and close contacts are not made idle for long stretches,” he explained. “We can test close contacts as early as three days from exposure. We also have the resources of multiple testing and serology which don’t apply in a public health setting so we can address cases of false positives. Less people are made idle unnecessarily.”
Games are played at the Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor, Pampanga and five hotels were booked to accommodate the PBA contingent in Angeles City, Mexico and Bacolor. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said games are to be played in Bacolor up to Sept. 30 after which a reevaluation will be made based on the IATF conditions for NCR Plus.