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Woman says children who came into contact with Rudy Gobert being denied coronavirus testing

"I'm sharing my story now because I've heard of other families in direct contact with individuals testing positive for the virus and not enough tests are available," the woman said.
Image: Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz warms up before a game on March 6, 2020.Omar Rawlings / Getty Images file

A woman says she and a group of children who met NBA player Rudy Gobert at Monday night's game in Salt Lake City are being denied the coronavirus test despite his positive result for the virus.

The woman, Samantha Eldridge, said in a lengthy Facebook post on Friday that she and members of a Native American girls group from the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake attended the Utah Jazz game Monday night as guests of Gobert and his nonprofit, Rudy's Kids Foundation.

"After the game, we were invited to meet Rudy on the court where he spoke with the girls and took photos," Eldridge wrote in the post that was shared more than 1,000 times by Saturday morning. "Some of the girls gave high fives."

Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive, leading the league to suspend the season. Eldridge alleges that two of the girls took a photo and included that image in her post.

On Wednesday evening, after she learned the Jazz center tested positive for COVID-19, the term for the disease caused by the virus, Eldridge said she immediately contacted the Urban Indian Center, which advised all the parents and girls who met Gobert to self quarantine for two weeks.

According to Eldridge, the Salt Lake County Health Department said those who came into contact with Gobert could not be tested for coronavirus unless they start showing symptoms. Eldridge alleges that one of the girls who posed in the photo with Gobert "has had a sore throat, headache and cough" that has lasted for days.

"Everyone I contacted has told us she cannot get tested because she is low risk, they do not have enough tests, and unless she has a fever over 102 they will reevaluate," Eldridge wrote.

Eldridge did not immediately return a request for an interview. In a follow-up statement on Facebook, she said that girl was tested Saturday morning and is awaiting results. Eldridge said she is still trying to get all the girls and parents tested and that the groups remains self-quarantined.

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, a cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult.

Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp told NBC News in a statement Saturday, the CDC recommends testing only for people who are symptomatic (and those symptoms are determined to not be caused by another respiratory illness) and have a known exposure (via travel to an area experiencing widespread transmission or via close contact to a confirmed case).

A statement posted on the State of Utah's website on Thursday in response to frequently asked questions from fans who recently attended Jazz games, defines close contact as being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for an extended period of time, typically 15 minutes or longer.

Eldridge said she recently learned that two board members for the Girls on the Run group, who also met Gobert after Monday night's game, were tested.

The two women had the same amount of exposure and direct contact with Gobert as the children in the Native American group, Eldridge alleges.

"Everyone who has been in contact with Rudy deemed 'important' from staff, reporters, to workers has been tested and we're expected to sit here and wait it out," Eldridge wrote in her post. "This is structural racism, institutional power and privilege and inequitable to allow some and deny others access to tests."

A representative for Gobert declined to comment on Saturday. NBC News reached out to the Utah Jazz for a response to Eldridge's claims but did not immediately hear back.

Donovan Mitchell, another Jazz player, confirmed Thursday that he tested positive for the coronavirus, which Eldridge alluded to in her post. (It is not known if Gobert is responsible for Mitchell contracting the virus or vice versa.)

Jenny Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Public Health, said there are nine known coronavirus cases in the state, including Gobert and Donovan. Both Johnson and the Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman noted that a health care provider may request testing for COVID-19 at their discretion.

"It’s not a matter of the health department denying them testing," Johnson said. "That’s up to the provider."

Eldridge said she did not intend to incite panic with her Facebook post.

"I'm sharing my story now because I've heard of other families in direct contact with individuals testing positive for the virus and not enough tests are available," she said. "It's also a matter of speaking up for our Native youth and ensuring their safety and health."

Before leaving a media session in Salt Lake City on Monday ahead of a game, Gobert touched all the tape recorders that were placed before him on a table. The devices were used by reporters who cover the Jazz.

Gobert later apologized in an Instagram post, writing, "I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis … mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment."

"The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered," he wrote. "At the time, I had no idea I was even infected."

He said he was "careless."

"I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously," he wrote, adding that he will use his experience as a way to educate others and prevent the spread of the virus.

"I am under great care and will fully recover," Gobert wrote. "Thank you again for all your support. I encourage everyone to take all of the steps to stay safe and healthy. Love."