BURLINGAME, Calif. (Reuters) – Dr. Leroy Sims, the medical director of the National Basketball Association who managed this past summer’s bio-secure bubble in Orlando, joined frontline workers in California in getting the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine on Friday.
He was among 148 respiratory therapists, registered nurses, and doctors to get the jab at Sutter Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, south of San Francisco, on the hospital’s first day of administering vaccines.
“For me, this has been a long-time coming,” Sims, who practices emergency medicine at the hospital as well, told Reuters.
“I’ve been dealing with the pandemic from Jan. 4 in terms of informing the NBA and friends and family and followed it really closely,” he said.
“So to be at this point, there’s no anxiety whatsoever. I’m really proud to be at this place.”
His vaccine comes days before the regular season is set to tip off. A handful of teams, including the Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz, are allowing a limited number of fans into their arenas. The rest will depend, Sims said.
“Really it’s going to be based on what the U.S. looks like. The northeast looks different from the southeast looks different from the west.
“And what the case burden is, positivity rates, so until we get the green light from the Department of Public Health and in those areas where we’re not allowed to have fans, we won’t, but to the extent that we can do it and do it safely, we will,” said Sims, who did not give dates on whether fans could come to games.
In the meantime, the league remains focused on keeping players safe, recommending that they continue to mask and keep physical distance, he said.
The league will also continue its deep testing protocols, Sims added.
According to the league and the National Basketball Players Association, almost 9% of players tested positive before training camps opened earlier this month. Back in late June, just over 5% tested positive before they gathered in Florida, where teams finished out the season and postseason in a “bubble.”
During the league’s three-month stay at Walt Disney World in Orlando, no players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19 after the virus derailed the season in March for four months.
As the vaccine rollout continues into the new year, Sims said the NBA would be waiting for healthcare workers, the vulnerable, and any necessary essential workers to get vaccinated before its players and staff do.
“In everything that we do, we have an eye on social responsibility. So we’re not jumping the line. When the opportunity comes for us to roll it out in a larger way to our players and to our staff, we’ll do that,” he said.
“But we’re not going to do that before the necessary essential workers get vaccinated.”
(Reporting by Nathan Frandino; Additional reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Daniel Wallis)