ESPN analyst Doris Burke opens up about positive COVID-19 test on Woj Pod


The Golden 1 Center empties out after the game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings was postponed at the last minute in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Doris Burke felt really tired and had a nagging headache.

Last Wednesday, two weeks later, she tested positive for COVID-19.

The longtime NBA announcer and analyst joined her ESPN colleague Adrian Wojnarowski on his podcast, The Woj Pod, to share her journey, from symptoms to recovery, as the new coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the United States and the rest of the world.

“I cannot begin to express to you the feeling of gratitude that I have for health,” she told Wojnarowski. “And I just want people to know, it’s important to social distance and to continue to function with all good practices of hand washing, wiping down surfaces, whatever your trusted medical professionals are telling you, please, please follow those.”

Burke, 54, was in Denver for the game between the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets on March 11 — the same day it was revealed that Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the virus — when she started feeling fatigued. Her symptoms didn’t really align with the signs normally associated with COVID-19, such as shortness of breath, fever, chills and body aches.

“That really was my primary symptom throughout, this extraordinary fatigue,” Burke said on The Woj Pod. “You know, I took an Aspirin that day, I felt better, I went about the normal business of trying to prep for the game, do the game.”

Instead of going through with her planned East Coast trip, Burke requested to head directly to Los Angeles, where she could get some rest before covering a Los Angeles Lakers game a few days later. But her condition only deteriorated.

“By the time Saturday the 14th hit, I was so tired that if I tried to get out of bed — from Saturday the 14th through Tuesday, the 17th, St. Patrick’s Day — I kid you not, I could not be out of bed for five minutes without needing to go back to bed and lay down.”

Burke understood the reality the health care system faced with a shortage of tests and overcrowding of medical facilities, but once she returned to her home in the Philadelphia area, she decided that it would be best to get tested.

“You’re aware of the shortage of tests, and you have that moral dilemma as a person,” she said. “[But] obviously our job requirement is such that we are on airplanes where we hear people cough and sneeze. We are in incredibly close proximity. The month prior to that game on March 11 happened to be a particularly hectic one for me travel-wise.

“I was not spending very much time in my apartment here in the Philly area. So, I just thought, I started to believe, even though my symptoms did not seem to line up with the typical symptoms, I believed, given the nature of my profession, the number of people I encounter, that I did in fact have exposure to the virus.”

The test results were expected within three days. Burke quarantined herself in her bedroom, and counted on the help of her daughter for basic needs like meals.

It wasn’t until Wednesday — eight days after she took the test — that she got the results.

“The delay on the test results actually allowed me to wrap my mind around the idea that I did have this,” Burke told Wojnarowski. “I’m out of my room (now), thank God. It’s nice to be in shared common space even if I’m six feet away from both people in my home. But, you know, we continue to do all safe practices, self-quarantine.”

There are over 100,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the United States. In the NBA, at least seven players have tested positive for COVID-19, including Gobert and teammate Donovan Mitchell, as well as Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart.

Gobert and Mitchell have since been cleared by the Utah Department of Health, while Smart continues his recovery.

When asked about how she thinks the NBA and athletes will handle the health concerns once sports resume — with or without fans — Burke sounds cautious.

“It’s going to be interesting how these athletes handle this moving forward,” she said. “But I think for a while, safe practices will dictate if we get back into arenas.

“Things might be different.”

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