PBA teams settle down in Clark, wait for go-signal to scrimmage

No PBA player headed to the bubble in Clark, Pampanga has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) so far, but the league isn't showing signs of skipping steps on its way to restarting the 2020 season.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, as well as Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president Vince Dizon, said that teams which arrived Monday have already undergone another round of swab tests, and the same will be done for those who will arrive Tuesday afternoon.

"We're waiting for the results. Typically it's 24-48 hours. Hopefully meron na po makukuhang results by tonight. The PBA will be very transparent with the results," said Dizon.

"Wala pa sa'min 'yung resulta. Pero nung nagpa-swab sila five days ago, lahat sila OK. Lahat ng papasok diyan, OK," Marcial added.

Magnolia, TNT, Terra Firma, Meralco and Phoenix were the first batch to make their way at Quest Hotel, while Barangay Ginebra, Alaska, Blackwater and NLEX followed a day after. Rain or Shine, NorthPort and San Miguel are expected to complete the cast on Tuesday.

Dizon said every team's 25-man delegation abides by specific steps laid out upon entry in the bubble in Clark.

After disinfecting their baggage, players, coaches and personnel first pass by the clinical triage, where everyone is interviewed and checked for symptoms. After that, everyone will be required to register to QR codes to be able to use StaySafe, the Inter-Agency Task Force's (IATF) official contact tracing app.

Every person headed to the bubble is asked to download the app beforehand. "That will provide us a digital way to contact trace everyone in the bubble. Hindi sila papapasukin sa bubble kapag hindi na-register ang sarili nila sa StaySafe," said Dizon.

The app will play a huge role in making sure no one steps out of the bubble without being detected.

"Paglabas nila ng hotel, they have to scan the QR code to let the system know that they have left the hotel. Then they'll enter their designated buses, and they'll have to again scan so that the system," Dizon explained.

While waiting for swab tests after registration, everyone is handed keys to their room, where they will isolate until the results come out.

Testing on everyone inside the bubble will be done every two weeks, Dizon said.

"Pero may teams of doctors tayo na ic-clinical check ang lahat ng players and coaches every day during the entire bubble," he added.

Of course, isolation areas and procedures are already in place should anybody test positive for COVID-19.

"Huwag naman po sana, pero kung sakaling may mag-positibo whether upon entry or during the course of the entire bubble, that person will immediately be isolated and be taken out of the bubble. Contact tracing will be immediately done," Dizon explained.

Once everyone clears tests, scrimmages can begin, said Marcial. In games, players and team personnel on the bench will be required to wear masks.

"'Yun ang binigay na protocols sa amin," the commissioner said. "Ang wala lang masks 'yung 10 naglalaro sa court at 'yung tatlong referees. Lahat, naka-mask."

To minimize risk, fist-bumps and high-fives are "discouraged", though Dizon and Marcial did admit that this could be something that could not be strictly monitored when the action starts.

"Ang term naman is 'discouraged'," Dizon said. "In the heat and excitement of the moment, mahirap talaga. Pero at least alam ng players na it's discouraged."

Eliminated teams can leave immediately after their last game and are given until the next day to exit the bubble. Tests won't be required upon exiting, said Dizon.

"Right now wala nang testing sa exit dahil regular naman silang ite-test during the bubble itself," Dizon clarified.

"Kung gusto nila umuwi sa gabi na 'yon, nasa kanila na po," added Marcial.

Double-header games will be played daily starting Oct. 11.