The NBA postponed three more games and the NHL pushed back the Dallas Stars' season opener again amid a surge of COVID-19 cases that has put professional sports on notice in North America
Two games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards, set for Sunday and Monday, were put on hold, the NBA said on Friday.
"Because of ongoing contact tracing within the Wizards, the team does not have the league-required eight available players to proceed with the scheduled games against the Cavaliers," the NBA said.
The postponements come amid reports on Friday that five Wizards players have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The NBA scratched its 13th game of the four-week-old season later Friday when the game between the Grizzlies and Timberwolves in Minnesota was called off a little over two hours before tip-off due to ongoing contact tracing leaving the host Timberwolves without the minimum eight players available.
Shortly after that announcement came news that Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns had tested positive.
Towns was distraught by the test result because his mother, 59-year-old Jacqueline Cruz-towns, died of complications from COVID-19 on April 13.
"Prior to tonight's game, I received yet another awful call that I tested positive for COVID," Towns said in his announcement on Twitter. "I will immediately isolate and follow every protocol. I pray every day that this nightmare of a virus will subside and I beg everyone to continue to take it seriously by taking all the necessary precautions.
"… It breaks my heart that my family, and particularly my father and sister continue to suffer from the anxiety that comes along with this diagnosis as we know all too well what the end result could be. To my niece and nephew … I promise you I will not end up in a box next to grandma and I will beat this."
Sixteen players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 6, the NBA said on Wednesday, after the league and its players' association agreed on Tuesday to "additional measures" to protect players and staff.
Both the NBA and NHL are adapting to the harsh reality of life beyond the quarantined "bubble" settings they used to close out their respective seasons last year, roughly 10 months since the coronavirus pandemic put most sports on hold.
The NHL on Friday delayed the Stars' 2020-21 season opener after a outbreak in which 17 players tested positive. The team is now expected to open against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 22.
The United States is experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases, and vaccine shortages and delays are further confounding the fight against the pandemic.
The NFL, which saw numerous delays but no outright cancellations during its regular season, reportedly plans to assign COVID-19 monitors to the final four teams ahead of its AFC and NFC title games, as it pushes toward a Feb. 7 Super Bowl with little to no wiggle room for a delay.
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