Robby Sikka, M.D.

With the National Basketball Association set to resume its season tomorrow, COVID-19 is forcing the league to focus on new ways of doing business. And there’s a lot seniors housing and care can learn from the NBA’s efforts, according to speakers at a National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care “Leadership Huddle” webinar Tuesday.

“We’ve been able to keep our organization safe because we are educated, because we are data-driven, because we share information and we share science,” said Robby Sikka, M.D., vice president of basketball performance and technology for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In terms of lessons learned, Sikka pointed to the importance of accurate, affordable and rapid testing and early quarantining when it comes to keeping COVID-19 under control. He noted that the NBA was able to go from a positivity rate of 10% the first week of testing at the end of June to zero cases among players and staff in the last two weeks. They did this through near daily testing and protection of players and staff by mandating that they stay within a restricted area, or “bubble,” at Orlando’s Disney World Resort. The association is also aggressively testing everyone who comes in contact with the players. 

In terms of how to make this even more applicable to seniors housing operators, Sikka noted that researchers at the Yale School of Public Health have partnered with the NBA and National Basketball Players Association to study the efficacy of a saliva-based testing tool that quickly and inexpensively determines if someone is infected with the novel coronavirus.

When approved, this test will be available for communities nationwide,” he said. “It could be used for staff and families when they are coming in to visit.”