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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 11, 2020
As the director of team security for the Toronto Raptors John Altilia has had a pretty busy last two weeks.
He doesn’t expect it to get that much easier in the coming days but he’s hopeful that soon his life in the NBA bubble will slow down.
Altilia and the entire Raptors contingent arrived in Orlando on Thursday and immediately underwent their umpteenth COVID test and followed that up with an orientation conducted by the NBA’s health and security people.
Then they headed to their respective rooms for the next 36 hours leaving only once to conduct another COVID test.
Saturday morning about 11 a.m. head coach Nick Nurse got the all clear for his team. No positive tests. They could convene for their first full practice since early March in California.
Just getting to this point was no easy task.
As he speaks to a reporter over the phone from within the NBA Campus at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Altilia’s got some down time but only because the team is in the midst of its bubble-mandated quarantine that all 22 teams must adhere to upon entering the campus.
Altilia, along with assistant security manager Bill Bevan and Will Crews who was recently hired to help out with Raptors 905 security have all been with the team since they arrived in Florida 19 days ago and took up residence in the Naples.
Crews has headed back to Toronto leaving Altilia inside the bubble and Bevan outside where he will provide an invaluable service to those within.
“If we need something that we can’t get inside, he will drop it of,” Altilia said. “It will be quarantined for 24 hours but then we will get it. He’ll be there for two weeks and then switched out so we’ll always have someone on the outside to assist with those things.”
These being the very early days in the bubble, Altilia is hesitant to make any concrete conclusions or even predictions for the success of the NBA’s plan, but having been with the Raptors in Naples for the past two weeks and helped deliver a Raptors team Covid-free to the bubble, he believes success here is possible.
As with any venture this big though, it will only be as successful as the weakest link and as Altilia proudly boasts there were no weak links in Naples.
“The guys from the start were really, really good,” Altilia said. “From the very start the players were on side. Guys weren’t going out, there was none of that. It was all just ‘Hey, here the focus is to get to Orlando as best as we could and as safe as we could and we did that. It was easy that way.”
Altilia said the increasing number of positive tests throughout Florida had everyone’s attention from the moment they got on their charter and no one let their guard down.
“We were like ‘Hey you are not going to be THAT guy or THAT one to chance that,’ ” he said of a possible outbreak within the team.
Altilia was also very complimentary of the organization and the way they handled things.
“You have to realize the organization made it as comfortable as they could under the circumstances,” he said. “You are dealing with a franchise that is well known around the league as a group that treats its players and staff well. They did everything they could to make it as comfortable as possible. That goes for the food and food options. We tried to appease the players as much as we could.”
Housed at the Ritz-Carleton Golf Resort in Naples the two weeks before they entered the NBA campus in Orlando, the Raptors were the sole occupants of the hotel which had just re-opened when the team arrived June 22nd. It wasn’t until July 1 that other guests started checking in at which point the Raptors had their circle closed and their routines down.
“I think the Ritz did a good job in regards to changing the menu up,” Altilia said. “We had a couple of BBQ’s with tables outside and the spacing and I think that was really, really enjoyable.
“We had a games room or lounge where our strength and conditioning coach Jon Lee (who is as competitive as most of the players he works with) was very very hands on,” Altilia said.
Lee runs an annual indoor bocce tournament for staff and media at an establishment in Washington but in Naples he had a captive audience for two weeks and took full advantage.
“There was some type of tournament going on every night whether it was poker or corn hole or pool or pinball or whatever, there was always something,” Altilia said. “One night he did all-in-one sort of mini-Olympics.”
Some of that may sound childish to some but it was all part of the puzzle that helped the Raptors come out of Naples without a single Covid case among them.
The Raptors navigated the hotel experience and daily individual workouts a half hour north of Naples at Florida’s Golf Coast University without a hitch. Altilia and his security team put on a lot of miles between the hotel and the gym ferrying players and coaches back and forth but did so safely and without incident.
The team also had two Greg Norman-designed golf courses on the hotel grounds that many took advantage of also negating the need to venture out once the workouts were complete.
All of which is saying a successful bubble is possible and the Raptors have seen that first hand.
Now in Orlando, Altilia once again has a good feeling that this can work.
From the daily testing (not the deep nasal kind for those wondering but both a throat and a less invasive nasal swab) in addition to the daily oxygen level tests all of which are downloaded and stored has Altilia feeling confident that should there be any weak links in the NBA armour they will be identified quickly.
“I think if there is an issue it will be almost instantaneous,” Altilia said of the NBA plan. “We will be shut down very quickly. I honestly believe though with the work that has gone into this and all the protocols, this is probably the safest place we can be in Florida.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020