Preferential coronavirus testing of NBA athletes, celebs '100% wrong': NY Gov. Cuomo

NBA union head defends coronavirus testing of players

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed the preferential treatment of celebrities and athletes who were able to be screened for the new coronavirus despite the lack of availability of testing to the general public, saying during a Thursday morning interview it's "100 percent wrong."

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"We have a very specific protocol in New York, because we don’t have enough tests to test everyone," Cuomo told "Today" show co-host host Savannah Guthrie. "You have to have a fever, you have to have been exposed. I believe it’s happening, I have no reason to believe it’s not happening and if someone is getting a priority, that’s 100 percent wrong.”

As of 7:30 a.m. Thursday, at least 9,415 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University and Medicine's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Just one day earlier, the head of the National Basketball Players Association defended NBA teams against criticism they received for special treatment, and placed the blame on the federal government for the lack of testing available to the public.

"There's nothing irresponsible – if you've got that information [that you've been exposed] – about trying to get the tests," NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN on Wednesday.

That same day, the Brooklyn Nets announced the entire team was tested last week upon returning from San Francisco after a game against the Golden State Warriors. The team found a private lab to do the work, and on Tuesday announced that four of its players were positive for the virus, including perennial All-Star Kevin Durant.

Kevin Durant attends Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center on December 15, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/Getty Images)

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"The problem that more of us can't get the tests – and I'm not apologetic about saying it – in my view, that rests at the foot of the federal government. They were responsible for making sure we were protected in that regard, and I think they failed,” Roberts told ESPN.

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Even though public health resources were not used, it raised the ire of many including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who turned to Twitter to voice his objections.

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement on Wednesday teams were working with their doctors, medical officials and experts "to coordinate the proper care around this virus for players and team staff."

"Once there were some players who tested positive, because of the unique working conditions of NBA players, team physicians and infectious disease experts looked at the situation of each team, made individual determinations, and the recommendation was to have eight other full teams tested."

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Asked about the issue Wednesday, President Trump said the well-to-do and well-connected shouldn't get priority for coronavirus tests. But the wealthy former reality star conceded that the rich and famous sometimes get perks.

"Perhaps that's been the story of life," Trump said during a briefing at the White House. "That does happen on occasion. And I've noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly."

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after a Utah Jazz player, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the coronavirus just before a game — eventually canceled — with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Oklahoma's state epidemiologist confirmed last week that the Jazz, their traveling party and a number of Utah beat writers — 58 people in all — were tested after the cancellation of the game in Oklahoma City once it became known that All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus.

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League officials have said that since its players have direct contact with each other and often interact very closely with fans, both physicians who work for teams and public health officials were concerned that they could accelerate the spread of the virus.

FOX Business reporter Thomas Barrabi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.