The NLEX Road Warriors and GlobalPort Batang Pier had a unique task of continuing to play in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday afternoon following the league's initial announcement that a referee tested positive for COVID-19.
After clearing with the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) to continue the scheduled games, NLEX faced GlobalPort and got its first win of the tournament.
For Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao, playing under a cloud of uncertainty caused by the suspected coronavirus case did not affect his team. The veteran coach accepted the challenge even before setting foot in the PBA bubble.
"For me, it wasn't really a big issue because psychologically, I'm really prepared," Guiao said about receiving the unfortunate news earlier in the day.
"I know it's really hard to make it 100 percent (negative cases)," he said in Filipino. "Something might go wrong. But the good thing about this is when something goes wrong you're still able to maintain control and still able to run it professionally just like what we're doing."
The PBA referee, who reportedly officiated Tuesday night's game between the Alaska Aces and Blackwater Elite, was moved to a quarantine area in the Athletes' Village in Clark for isolation.
Right after NLEX's game, the league released a joint statement with the CDC and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) stating that the referee "may be a case of false positive after the conduct of antigen testing Wednesday afternoon yielded negative on the presence of COVID-19 virus."
"I've always felt that the CDC with Vince Dizon (BCDA President and CEO), Noel Manankil (CDC chief) together with our commissioner Willie Marcial, they've done a great job from the very beginning," said Guiao.
"There is no 100 percent guarantee that you can keep the virus out. There really isn't a 100 percent guarantee. We really didn't know how it got here, where it came from. But so far, I have nothing but praise for how Clark, the BCDA, and the PBA itself have been conducting this tournament. I don't think that's something that should take how professionally this bubble has been managed."
The suspect case will remain on a strict 14-day quarantine and will undergo another RT-PCR test to confirm the negative antigen result. Close contacts of the game official were also isolated. The statement also stressed that "the integrity of the bubble has not been compromised and protocols have not been breached."
For Guiao, all the precautions are more than necessary as the entire league tries to grapple with the unpredictable disease inside its protected bubble.
"We really don't know all about the virus. I'm wondering how it got in with how strict our protocols have been. As I said, it's not 100 percent guarantee. But the mere fact we're still going strong, the mere fact that right away, they were able to act, they were able to mitigate the situation is also a testament to how well managed this conference is."
The PBA took on the challenge of continuing its 45th season in a bubble setting last October 11. Despite the first probable COVID-19 case, the league will push through and teams will continue to play.
"For me, I'm not really worried. I'm not really in a state of panic or whatever. These people know what they're doing, they can handle the situation," said Guiao.