Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari has connected with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department to provide funding for 400 coronavirus testing kits as well as personal protection equipment such as face shields, gloves, gowns and N95 masks.
The focus will be providing for high-risk individuals such as health care workers, first responders, people over 65 and those who are immunocompromised. Gallinari provided funding for items that will be used next week.
“There is a need, and so people in my position, if we can help, if I can help, it’s something that I feel that I want to do and I need to do,” Gallinari told ESPN by phone Friday. “It was a great to collaborate with the local institutions and be able to set this up. Since I’m here, I’m leading the quarantine here, this is where I am, so it feels even better to be able to help the situation here.
“Knowing what’s going on in my country and what my family has been through both in France and Italy, if I can help mitigating or at least avoiding some of the troubles we had early on in Italy, and we can do better here in OKC, and the States in general, that’s good.”
The last time Gallinari shot a basketball was March 11, when he was warming up some 15 minutes before tipoff against the Utah Jazz. The game never started, as Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test was about to stop the entire sports world in its tracks.
Since then, Gallinari, 31, has been quarantined in Oklahoma City with his fiancée, working out once or twice a day, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner and watching shows on Netflix.
“If I was by myself,” he said, “it would be way, way tougher.”
Gallinari’s native Italy has been one of the countries hit hardest by COVID-19, with the entire nation going on lockdown a few weeks ago. He said his family is still doing well, although they’ve been quarantined for more than a month. But some of his close friends have been affected, including a childhood best friend who lost his grandmother, and a childhood teammate who lost his mother on Thursday.
“It’s a tough situation, and I could tell you a lot of not-nice stories, in terms of people passing away or people that I know — best friends, family members — that have been affected by the virus,” he said. “The stories, they keep coming up every day. Every hour.”
After witnessing the issues his country faced with the outbreak, Gallinari was one of the first professional athletes to speak out about the need for closing arenas and stadiums in the United States to fans. He said that a day before the Thunder played the Jazz on March 11, at a time when shutting arena doors still seemed a toss-up decision.
“I wasn’t predicting anything or I wasn’t a magician, I was just telling everybody what was going on in Italy was something very possible in the States, too,” he said.
A little more than 24 hours later, Gobert tested positive and the NBA never even got to the stage of closing doors to fans; the season was immediately suspended.
“Fortunately, [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver did an amazing job closing everything right away, so we didn’t go through Phase 2. We never even played games with no fans,” Gallinari said. “After what happened, it was great for him to do what he did and stop everything. It was the right thing to do. So I’m glad. It’s been tough, but as players we’ve been quarantined since March 11, so we started the quarantine that night.”
The United States passed China on Thursday with the most cases worldwide of COVID-19. As of Friday, there had been more than 100,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., with the death toll rising above 1,500.
“I think there is still time to contain the situation,” Gallinari said. “It’s very important the citizens understand how to behave and this is not something that will go by tomorrow or is gonna go away in a few days or a week or two weeks. It’s something that’s going to take months, and so with a little help other like people like me can do all over the States in their local communities, hopefully we’ll be able to contain the numbers.”