September 22, 2020 

“Every day’s a new day in COVID world”: WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks to media

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert spoke to the media on Tuesday ahead of the semifinal game between the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx

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WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks on a panel in October 2019. (Photo via @LehighSports on Twitter)

On Sunday afternoon, as players from the Seattle Storm were loading onto the bus to head to game 1 of their WNBA semifinal series against the Minnesota Lynx, league Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was given the news that three Storm players’ COVID-19 test results had come back inconclusive. As a result, Engelbert and her team of health experts determined that the safest course of action was to postpone the game.

The Lynx already had arrived at the arena and some of the players had been warming up when they were told the game was postponed.

On Tuesday afternoon, Engelbert spoke to the media on a conference call about the league’s decision. She also confirmed that on Monday, two of the three Storm players had tested negative for COVID-19 twice, the required amount according to league protocol, following Sunday’s scare. A later update from the league confirmed that the third player has been cleared to play.

“We wanted to make sure that there was no infection or exposure that is being spread amongst the team and therefore through the campus in the bubble,” Engelbert said on Tuesday’s call.

The entire Seattle team was immediately isolated following news of their three inconclusive test results on Sunday and the league began contact tracing — which was certainly aided by the fact that Seattle had a bye for the first and second rounds of the playoffs, thus limiting their exposure.

“We would have to feel comfortable that it was safe for everybody involved in putting on the game, not just the players on the court but everybody,” Engelbert said.

The Storm and Lynx are set to play the first game in the series Tuesday at 9 pm ET on ESPN2.

The WNBA made it through an abbreviated 22-game regular season with a small number of false-positive tests for the virus, but no players had tested positive once the season tipped off. Everyone inside the bubble environment at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida has been tested for COVID-19 every day.

Engelbert indicated that while the league periodically received inconclusive tests throughout the regular season, it was certainly not to the level that occurred on Sunday afternoon when three players from one team received inconclusive results.

“I think we made the right decision Sunday, and I think we’re making the right decision tonight,” Engelbert said. “But as I said, every day is a new day in COVID world and you go back to ground zero.”

Update 9/22/20 at 7:45 p.m.: This story has been updated to include that the third Seattle Storm player has been cleared by the league.

Written by Bela Kirpalani

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