The WNBA took the unprecedented step Sunday of postponing a semifinal playoff game, due to inconclusive COVID-19 test results.
About 35 minutes prior to the scheduled tipoff between the No. 1 seed Seattle Storm and No. 4 Minnesota Lynx, the league announced that game one of the series would be postponed due to “inconclusive…test results today for players from the Seattle Storm….out of an abundance of caution.”
The game was to air after the first semifinal match up between the Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces. Instead, commissioner Cathy Engelbert explained on camera that she received the inconclusive results prior to the Storm’s departure from their hotel. She rode the bus with them and broke the news in person.
“Especially when there are multiple players, we really can’t take a chance to expose the bubble to any kind of community spread,” Engelbert said. “We need to see, we need to get more data, we need to get more testing, to see if we have an issue or not. So we decided to postpone the game.”
Those whose test results were inconclusive have been put in isolation.
Players have been tested daily since entering the WNBA bubble July 6. At least three from different teams received inconclusive test results during the course of the season, but in each case they were reactivated within days after then testing negative.
Engelbert said the entire Seattle team will be tested again tonight, and then tomorrow, with those testing inconclusive receiving additional testing.
“Hopefully we’ll get good data back the next 24-48 hours and be back on the court with those two teams for game one on Tuesday, but we’ve got to keep assessing the data,” she said.
The most challenging aspect of conducting the bubble season, Engelbert said, is that COVID-19 testing begins anew each day.
“It’s about keeping the bubble safe and making sure there’s no community spread,” she said. “The purpose of the testing program and protocols is pulling someone out before there’s a spread.”
The WNBA is committed to honoring the data.
“While we’d like to have a game right now…you have to follow the data and the science,” Engelbert said. “So far everything has worked in bubble because we’ve followed the science.”
Patience is key for the league.
“The virus is so unpredictable that it takes time to get….and evaluate those results,” Engelbert said. “This was the right thing to do today.”