Utah Jazz players infected by COVID-19 stayed at Detroit hotel

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

Detroit — Two Utah Jazz players who tested positive for the coronavirus stayed at the downtown Westin Book Cadillac hotel, city officials confirmed Thursday.

"The Utah Jazz played the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena," Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said at a Thursday afternoon press conference. "Two Jazz players, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, subsequently were diagnosed with COVID-19."

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) talks with guard Donovan Mitchell, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Detroit on Saturday. Both players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Gobert's test result forced the NBA to suspend the season.

Four days after the Saturday Utah-Detroit game, Oklahoma health officials tested Gobert on Wednesday and determined he had been infected, leading to the cancellation of Wednesday's game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. Moments later, the NBA suspended the season. 

Officials then tested the rest of the team, according to a Jazz statement released Thursday. All-Star player Donovan Mitchell also tested presumptively positive for the virus, Mitchell revealed Thursday on Instagram.

"We wanted to go out and verify for ourselves the (hotel) cleaning protocols were appropriate," Mayor Mike Duggan said in a Thursday afternoon press conference. "The team left last Sunday. The health department staff went out, and they were satisfied and concluded there is no reason for anybody to have any concern."

After the findings, members of the Jazz were put in quarantine. The league has told teams that have played Utah in the last 10 days that they should self-quarantine. The Pistons are among them, Duggan said.

Duggan said the actions the Pistons took were "extremely positive."

"They have self quarantined their players, their coaches, their staff, their travel team, people who could have been directly exposed to these players and have removed them from potential risk of spreading to the community," the mayor said. "They closed their headquarters and practice facilities. They have their employees working from home while they thoroughly clean."

No cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in Detroit, Duggan said. 

Unless hotel patrons had direct contact with the two players, Duggan said the health department has "assessed this as a very little risk.”

"At this point, it's kind of hard to contain it so you could pretty much get it from anywhere. ... I just hope they’re (the Westin) doing a good job of cleaning it and making sure everything is fine," said Will Liverman, 31, from Philadelphia. Liverman was staying at the Westin to play at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra concert, which was canceled due to the coronavirus. 

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) guards Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood (35) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday in Detroit.

“If you were within three to six feet of Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell in the last few days … you should go see your doctor, and you should self-quarantine,” Duggan said. “It appears the primary transmission that is occurring in this country is direct contact with sneezing, coughing, water droplets.”

Dr. Marcus Zerbos, a specialist in infectious disease, oversaw the Pistons' response and will now work as an advisor to the Detroit Health Department on coronavirus, Duggan said.

The Jazz played the Pistons Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena and then played at home Monday against the Toronto Raptors.

The news comes after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency Tuesday night after announcing a Wayne County man and an Oakland County woman had tested positive for the virus. They urged gatherings of more than 100 people to be canceled out of caution. 

The state is waiting for the results of 28 tests as of Thursday, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services website. 

The state has approved testing for 120 individuals so far and has enough testing materials to do 1,300 tests thanks to recent deliveries. 

Duggan said Thursday that the health department is not recommending schools or churches shut down but they should take precautions.

On Wednesday, Duggan announced he had partially opened the city's emergency operations center and set up a medical response team to specifically treat employees who become ill. 

The city started on Wednesday enrolling residents in a relief plan aimed at ensuring all residents have water service during the outbreak. On Thursday, the city was working to restore service to 150 homes and another 200 homes were enrolled in new $25 a month plans to keep their water on, Duggan said. 

Some Metro Detroit school districts closed schools Thursday to allow educators to prep for online learning, including Rochester Community Schools, West Bloomfield School District and Grosse Pointe public schools. Detroit Public Schools Community District will remain open, officials announced Thursday.

Most of Michigan's universities and colleges have canceled classes, announcing they'd be moving to online instruction.

Gobert initially tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection on Wednesday in Oklahoma, according to a Jazz statement. But, "in a precautionary measure, and in consultation and cooperation with NBA medical staff and Oklahoma health officials, the decision was made to test for COVID-19," the team said in a Wednesday press release.

Gobert then tested positive for COVID-19. A day later, all members of the Utah Jazz traveling party were tested, according to a team statement. Mitchell tested positive for the virus.


Staff Writer Ariana Taylor contributed.