by Gary Vitti

Several people have asked me about my thoughts regarding the NBA suspending the season due to the coronavirus. Working in the NBA for more than three decades and knowing the medical personnel that advises commissioner Adam Silver, I can guarantee you it was the wisest and most prudent decision they could make. I can also tell you that we should follow their lead. They are privy to the most updated information and if they are practicing social distancing than that’s what we should do as well. The NBA is a big business with big money, they wouldn’t shut it down if they weren’t worried about the gravity of this virus.

I’m listening to the experts and I hope I just dispelled any thoughts that this is not a big deal and you should not be concerned. We should all be very concerned and be prudent but we should also not panic.

There is a great deal of misinformation out there so allow me to tell you what the experts are saying about the coronavirus. Viruses are named according to their genetic structure. There are several types of coronaviruses that get their name from their crown-like appearance under a microscope. The World Health Organization (WHO) named this coronavirus “COVID-19” on February 11, 2020.

The COVID-19 is genetically related to the coronavirus SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which caused the 2003 epidemic that infected over 8,000 people in 26 countries, mostly in Asia. The name COVID-19 was chosen to avoid public panic because of its association with SARS but you should know it’s from the same family. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed from animals to people. The COVID-19 is a new strain discovered in 2019 that appeared in animals but had not been previously identified in humans. The symptoms are flu-like in nature: fever, cough, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, pneumonia and even death.

The statistics on coronavirus infections are skewed and there are likely many more than what has been reported. The most plausible reason for this lack of bio-surveillance is the shortage of testing kits. If there is no test, there is no record of having the infection. To give you an idea of how far behind we are: South Korea has already tested 250,000 people with the ability to test 10,000 people per day. The United States has only tested about 19,000 people which equates to about 23 tests per million. The UK performed 347 per million, Italy 826 per million and South Korea 3,692 per million. The reason for the lack of test kits has become a political football. I’m not sure of all the reasons but for sure one reason is that the original test kits released by the CDC in early February proved to be defective. There has also been a report that the original tests done in China had a 50% false-negative result making an epidemic appear unlikely.
The continent of Africa has 54 nations with 1.2 billion people with only 100 cases. Are there only 100 cases or are they just not capable of testing for COVID-19? The same holds true for Mexico, a country of 130 million people with only 15 cases.

As of today, China has reported 81,000 people infected with the COVID-19 resulting in 61,000 recoveries and 3,100 deaths. The United States has surpassed 2000 documented infections with 40 deaths. The good news going forward on testing and treatment is Trump has declared a national state of emergency under the Stafford Act. This will give the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the power to waive certain laws and requirements to treat possible infected people expeditiously and more efficiently. This declaration has freed up 42 billion dollars for funding to combat the virus. There is also another 7 billion dollars to help fund qualified small businesses. There will be 400 thousand per week newly approved test kits made available by the Roache corporation. Seven U.S. states have opened drive-through coronavirus testing facilities. Hospitals like Mt. Sinai in New York have improved their Telehealth systems to reduce the burden of hospital visits. People concerned about being infected can communicate with a healthcare professional electronically as to when and if they should go to a hospital.

Acting prudently relies on accurate information and what you need to know. Here are some bullet points:

We are at the beginning…this will be around for months.

The primary mechanism for the virus is breathing.

People in public places get infected.

COVID-19 acts like influenza. You are infected and infectious before you are symptomatic. Some people are never symptomatic but become carriers and spreaders of the virus. This is true for children. Children do not seem to experience any of the symptoms of the virus but can come home and spread it to the rest of the family.

This virus spreads very quickly which has been the issue in Italy. Two weeks ago my family and friends were living La Dolce Vita, now they are on lockdown and some are quarantined.

The incubation period is about four days. That is from the day the virus enters your body to the time you become symptomatic. That translates into the number of people infected doubling every four days. When you think of the big picture, if 20 thousand are infected, in four days it will be 40 thousand, in eight days it will be 80 thousand and in sixteen days we’re talking 160 thousand, etc.

The recovery period is about 14 days with high-risk people it could be up to 6 weeks.

People that are at high risk for COVID-19 are the elderly with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and lung diseases. To put that in perspective, that is 60% of our population. The usual cause of death is pneumonia. The pneumonia shot will not work for COVID-19 pneumonia. In China, 65% of men smoke which was the common denominator for the highest death rate. Only 2% of women in China smoke which is believed brought the fatality rate of death from the COVID-19 virus down for women. The greater issue here in the U.S. is that 45% of our population is obese which like smoking will put them in a higher risk category.

Although the elderly with underlining issues are the population dying from the virus there is an extraordinary number of people in their 40’s that are infected. These people are being vectors of the virus passing it on to those that become symptomatic and must go into the healthcare system. We all have a responsibility to each other to be prudent about our behavior even if you are not in the high-risk group. Your actions or inactions may perpetuate the spread of the virus causing an overload to the hospital system causing health care workers to choose who they can save and who they can’t because they don’t have enough hospital beds, ventilators and respirators for all those who need them to survive.

No vaccine is coming any time soon.

COVID-19 may or may not be seasonal. There is a reason that the flu is seasonal but we’re not completely sure why. It seems influenza is dependent on temperature and humidity. In temperate regions like ours, influenza seems to thrive under cold dry conditions. But in tropical regions, it seems to thrive during their rainy season. Is it temperature/humidity related or is it when there is in-climate weather that we tend to stay indoors creating a more contagious environment. The current thinking is that the environment may not destroy the virus but it may slow down its transmission. So even if the COVID-19 infections go down as the weather gets warmer it may reappear in the fall.

So was the NBA prudent or did they panic? They were prudent and we should follow their lead. Stay out of public places. I’m Italian and I have to stop hugging people. I don’t think I can do that so I’m going to stay away from most people. It’s not anything personal but when I see you I probably wouldn’t feel right not hugging you so it is better for both of us that we don’t hang out for a while. Even if you’re not symptomatic you could be a carrier and so could I. For all my years in the Lakers’ locker room and the training room my mantra to the team was to wash your hands a lot and keep them away from your face. When you wash your hands don’t do it underwater. Use a little bit of water to activate the soap but use mostly soap and say the alphabet slowly to know how long you should wash. For your children, tell them to sing happy birthday twice. As for hand sanitizer, my advice is to make your own. Use two parts 90% isopropyl alcohol to one part 100% aloe vera gel. If you buy over the counter do not buy a product that has benzalkonium which is ineffective for the coronavirus.

Support your local businesses with door dash and uber eats. Order hot food online or by phone, when the food is delivered take it out of its package, wash your hands and enjoy.

Lastly, take this time to enjoy time at home. Since I retired, I’ve cherished my time with my loved ones. I hate board games because I have a Mamba Mentality and I’m too competitive and I don’t have a good time if I lose, so I don’t play board games which are mostly based on chance. I’m getting better at being more normal and not thinking the world championship relies on buying Park Place in Monopoly. Be prudent but don’t panic. I wish you all health and happiness.


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Marco Labozzetta March 15, 2020 - 8:32 am

Thank you Mr. Vitti, your view is the most clear and useful to know this virus, because knowledge is the key to avoid panic. Unfortunately this is what happened here in Italy and I really hope won’t in US.

John Moe March 15, 2020 - 3:59 pm

Thank you for a lucid and and practical presentation about a very important subject. You remain an excellent educator even if you are no longer teaching players and staff one to one. I appreciate your difficulty suppressing the hugger within you, and I commend you for making wise choices to keep you and your loved ones safe. As always, all the best.

Bill Bertka March 15, 2020 - 8:52 pm

GAry , Very helpful and informative . I have always admired your constant pursuit. Of knowledge that would assist you in your profession. You could always be counted on for having the most up to date information to help treat our players .for decades. The success of our players and teams speaks of your efforts. Your Views and comments on Covina-19 are sincerely appreciated. Your lifetimes friend Bill Bertka

The Respirator Shop April 24, 2020 - 9:26 am

King regards,
Harrell Schneider


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