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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

BioReference Laboratories, Inc. has been a key cog in the sports-amid-a-pandemic machine, providing tailor-made, COVID-19 testing solutions for most major American sports leagues.

What to know: Founded in 1981 and owned by parent company OPKO Health, BioReference is one of the largest full-service, specialty laboratories in the U.S., averaging 50-60,000 PCR tests per day.

The state of play: BioReference works mostly with non-sports clients (they've tested New York City public schools, for example). But the company's athletic footprint is unmatched over the past year.

  • Bubbles: NBA, NHL and MLS bubbles; Winter X Games; NBA G League bubble.
  • Non-bubbles: 2020-21 NFL season; current NBA and NHL seasons; USMNT and USWNT.
  • Fan testing: Bills home playoff games; NBA teams hosting fans this season.

Between the lines: Each client requires a custom solution. So while BioReference has become the de facto "sports testing partner," they've provided vastly different services from league to league.

  • NFL: BioReference performed 1.23 million tests last season, comprising 5,000 people tested daily for seven months, per OPKO's Q4 earnings call. They tested teams at their facilities, then delivered the tests to nearby labs, which returned results within 24 hours.
  • NBA: Roughly 100 BioReference employees lived in the Disney bubble and administered tests to players, which were then driven 75 minutes away to a lab in Melbourne, Florida.
  • Fans: Testing fans ahead of the Bills' playoff games presented a new challenge. "We had to build the IT infrastructure so fans could go to the website, pick a time, schedule their test, show up, get tested in five minutes and have the result on their phone within 24 hours," executive chairman Jon Cohen tells Axios.

What's next: BioReference has an agreement with MLB to be their testing partner for the 2021 season, which begins in less than five weeks.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Feb 21, 2021 - World

America's vaccine rollout has been among the best in the world

America’s much-maligned vaccine rollout is actually going relatively well, at least compared to other wealthy countries.

The big picture: The U.S. has carried out more vaccinations than any country in the world, and given a first dose to a higher percentage of its population (12%) than all but five countries: Israel, the Seychelles, the UAE, the U.K. and Bahrain.

NIH director slams maskless Republicans — helped kill thousands

The politicization of mask wearing during the pandemic may have led to the deaths of "tens of thousands" of Americans because of increased spread of COVID-19, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The evidence was pretty compelling by last March or April that uniform wearing of masks would reduce transmission of this disease. And yet, with a variety of messages through a variety of sources, mask wearing became a statement about your political party or an invasion of your personal freedom."

Updated Feb 22, 2021 - Health

Fauci boss gives Trump administration credit on Operation Warp Speed

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins tells "Axios on HBO" that the Trump administration deserves credit for the "breathtaking" speed of COVID vaccine development.

The big picture: The fact that it "got done in 11 months from when we first knew about this virus is at least five years faster than it's ever been before before," Collins said.