Fauci: ‘We’re not ready’ for sports to return
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week that the country is “not ready” for sports to make a return amid the coronavirus pandemic and indicated that leagues should be ready to “go without this sport for this season.”
In an interview with The New York Times published on Monday, Fauci, who is one of top experts leading the White House’s coronavirus task force, said “safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything” when it comes to the question of when sporting events will be able to resume in the country.
“If you can’t guarantee safety, then, unfortunately, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘We may have to go without this sport for this season,’ ” he continued.
“I would love to be able to have all sports back. As a health official and a physician and a scientist, I have to say, right now, when you look at the country, we’re not ready for that yet,” Fauci added. “We might be ready, depending upon what the sport is. But right now, we’re not.”
During the interview, Fauci was pressed about the possibility of some sports kicking back up without live audiences — an idea that has been floated by some state leaders in recent weeks.
If some states move in that direction in the weeks ahead, Fauci said workers would need to follow social distancing guidelines, wear face coverings and adhere to basic hygiene practices in order to “diminish the risk” of an outbreak.
“The things we need to do to the best of our ability are try and keep the six-foot distance and wear face coverings,” he said. “And do the kind of pure hygiene things you do to prevent the spread of respiratory infections: washing hands frequently; wearing gloves, particularly food service, and they do that anyway; changing gloves frequently.”
“If you can do that, it isn’t completely free of risk, but you diminish the risk substantially,” he continued. “The density of the infection in the community will dictate the degree to which you can loosen up. I’ve said that many times, and I’m quoted as saying that the virus decides how quickly you’re going to get back to normal. You can try and influence the virus by your mitigation programs, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to get the virus under some sort of control before you start resuming normal activity.”
He was also pressed about what could be done to reduce the risk of an outbreak when it comes to high-contact sports, like basketball, where it can be more difficult to follow social distancing guidelines.
“You’ve got to be really creative,” he said. “That’s going to be more difficult and more problematic. But you know, there have been some suggestions that if you want to have a situation where players are going to have to come into contact, like basketball, there are certain things you can do.”
“It may not work,” he said. “I’m not saying this is the way to go, but you want to at least consider having players, if they’re going to play, play in front of a TV camera without people in the audience. And then test all the players and make sure they’re negative and keep them in a place where they don’t have contact with anybody on the outside who you don’t know whether they’re positive or negative.”
“That’s going to be logistically difficult,” Fauci said, but he said there is “at least the possibility of doing that.”