IMG 20201020 212358 1 1024x766 - Is the bubble ‘breached’?
The scene inside the AUF Arena. (Jeremiah Sevilla)

CLARK FREEPORT–It was a smooth sail until the cloud of uncertainty enveloped the staging of the PBA bubble, no thanks to the COVID-19 cases that were reported just days apart.

Good thing, a ray of sunshine has brighten up the mood of the anxious members of the 350-man delegation, with the news coming out that the other close contacts, including the “suspected” game official himself, have turned a negative result from confirmatory tests.

The league announced Sunday a second case of Covid-19 infection, right in the middle of the lone conference this season as the Philippine Cup approaches the halfway mark in Pampanga.

In a Zoom press conference, the PBA disclosed that a player of Blackwater tested positive for the coronavirus, a deadly disease that has victimized closed to 370,000 Filipinos.

It could be remembered that the Elite requested for a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) retest on Thursday morning following a possible exposure to the referee who was reported as the first “suspect case”.

The player was immediately brought to the Athlete’s Village, the mega quarantine facility in New Clark City, Capas, Tarlac, the exact procedure that the game referee has gone.

The players and coaching staff of Blackwater were isolated in their respective rooms, while all the close contacts were put in the designated isolation area.  

It was believed that the referee officiated in the game between Alaska and Blackwater on Tuesday, prompting the Aces to also have a retest on top of a self-initiated antigen test which turned out negative. 

Fortunately, the official has tested negative on his confirmatory RT-PCR administered at the Athlete’s Village where he is undergoing strict isolation. 

The seven referees, who were isolated after getting listed as first and second layer contacts, already yielded negative results from their retest. 

Barangay Ginebra guard LA Tenorio, several PBA staff, members of the media and TV crew also tested negative on their second round of swab tests. Only Alaska has yet to determine the result of its retest as of writing time. 

As a precautionary measure, the league postponed Blackwater’s game against Rain or Shine on Sunday, but decided to push through with the “Bubble Clasico” featuring Ginebra and Magnolia.

The uncomfortable news has also triggered questions and preemptive measures among the other ball clubs.

Blackwater played TNT while Alaska took on Rain or Shine after having their retest on Thursday. The Aces also faced San Miguel on Saturday night. 

Head coach Bong Ravena of TNT, which is set to face NorthPort on Monday, said the Tropang Giga had a self-imposed isolation and were set to have an antigen and RT-PCR test for assurance. 

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial stressed that the stringent protocols inside the bubble were not breached. 

“Wala tayong na-break na protocol. Hindi nagbu-burst ang bubble,” said Marcial, who added that they will impose stricter measures especially on the “ayuda” or deliveries coming to the Quest Hotel. 

BCDA president Vince Dizon, one of the prime movers of the PBA bubble, assured the safety of the whole delegation. 

“The protocols were studied very well and benchmarked with the protocols around the world,” said Dizon, who is also the deputy chief implementer of the national Covid response. 

The league made the announcement of a second “suspect case” hours after lifting the indefinite suspension on Phoenix forward Calvin Abueva. 

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