Dr. Robby Sikka, former vice president of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, warned that an increase in sports-related Covid cases is a “really bad sign for our country” in the coming weeks.
“The leagues have led the way, and I think that this is going to portend a lot more cases as we get into the Christmas holidays,” Sikka said Tuesday evening on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.”
Despite a 97% vaccination rate, the NBA has seen an uptick in cases.
On Monday, the Brooklyn Nets put five players on Covid protocols for either inconclusive or positive test results. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers canceled their practice after a player tested positive.
Earlier this month, the Lakers’ LeBron James was cleared to return after missing one game under the NBA’s health and safety protocols. On Dec. 2, the league said James was not positive for Covid despite a series of tests that produced conflicting results earlier that week. James has said he’s vaccinated.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 61% of the American population are fully vaccinated. The U.S. seven-day average of daily cases is around 120,000, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. The omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa about a month ago, now makes up about 3% of cases sequenced in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While delta remains the dominant strain in the U.S., the CDC said that omicron is spreading quickly.
Sikka said the best possible strategy going into the holidays is to combine “layers of protection,” testing, masking and vaccination. He cited the lack of a national testing strategy as a drawback in the U.S. strategy to combat Covid.
Encouraging booster shots leading into the holidays, Sikka said, “The NBA has seen a large percentage of players get boosted” and it’s going to help keep them in the game.
The NBA isn’t the only sports league aiming for high booster rates.
According to a memo obtained by CNBC, the NFL is requiring anyone in contact with players including coaches and staff to get Covid booster shots by Dec. 27.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.