NBA basketball franchise the Golden State Warriors are drawing up what is said to be a groundbreaking plan involving rapid COVID-19 testing in an effort to have 50% capacity at Chase Center for the new season.

UCSF epidemiology Professor George Rutherford, one infectious disease expert consulted by the Warriors, told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that the plan centres on COVID-19 testing for all fans ahead of games.

The news comes after it emerged that the NBA will require fans within 30 feet of the court to test negative for COVID-19 as part of its game operations protocols to all 30 teams. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) last week reached an agreement in principle on the start of the 2020-21 season, which is set to commence on a shortened basis on December 22.

The protocols drawn up by the Warriors are said to be the first of their kind. Rutherford said the Warriors plan to conduct PCR testing, which is considered more reliable than antigen testing. He also indicated the Warriors could send testing kits to season-ticket holders, who would then drop these off at a central facility.

Fans could also take rapid-results tests outside Chase Center before attending a game, Rutherford suggested. He added: “It seems counterintuitive, but I think the plan is solid. If we were just doing social distancing and masking in a crappy old gym, like the Cow Palace, this would be a recipe for disaster.

“But it’s a state-of-the-art building with state-of-the-art ventilation, which they can control. Food services can be kept separate. What changes all of this is the whole idea of testing everybody. That part is revolutionary.”

In response to the report, the Warriors said: “Since March, we have been developing a comprehensive plan that would enable fans to return to Chase Center in the safest way possible, and we recently submitted that plan to the city and state for review.

“Many venues in other sports have implemented strict protocols to welcome fans back on a partial basis, but adding a testing component — along with strict protocols — to our reopening strategy would help us achieve our number one priority, which is the health and safety of our fans, staff and players. We will continue to work with local and state officials and hope to activate this plan when the timing is right.”

Chase Center has a capacity of 18,064 and the NBA protocols reported last week stated that teams will be permitted 50% capacity if all fans are tested and the local county’s positivity rate is 3% or below, among other requirements. However, it is still unclear if/when Chase Center will be permitted to have fans in place.

California issued new public-health guidelines last month permitting outdoor professional sporting events to have live audiences, if the teams are located in counties in the state’s orange and yellow tier scale for reopening their economies. San Francisco is currently in the yellow tier, but Mayor London Breed and the Department of Public Health recently postponed reopening plans due to a “rapid and significant” increase in cases.

“I would have to see the plans before committing to be supportive of any arena reopening timeline,” said Supervisor Matt Haney, whose district includes Chase Center. “I think at a time when we are seeing a spike in cases and rolling back indoor dining, reopening large arenas in the near term feels obviously premature.”

Image: Jason O’Rear/Chase Center