Fauci says professional sports may not return this year due to COVID-19

Sports fans should prepare for a year without their favorite pastimes, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

The virus expert told The New York Times on Tuesday that professional sports may not be possible this year thanks to the coronavirus. Fauci said that bringing sports back safely will hinge on making testing much more available, the Washington Examiner reported.

Fauci: Sports seasons in jeopardy

Sports leagues are looking for ways to stay running, with Major League Baseball (MLB), for example, eyeing a scheme to play all games in just a few states with no spectators, a prospect of which Fauci has commented approvingly.

Speaking with the Times, Dr. Fauci said that bringing contact sports like baseball back would be most feasible if there are no audiences and players are vigilantly isolated and tested.

“That’s going to be logistically difficult, but there’s at least the possibility of doing that,” he said. “In other words, we said that for baseball, get the players in Major League Baseball, get a couple of cities and a couple of hotels, get them tested and keep them segregated. I know it’s going to be difficult for them not to be out in society, but that may be the price you pay if you want to play ball.”

He added that it’s “certainly possible” to start with spectator-less games, then gradually phase in having fans attend. But he also didn’t discount the possibility that sports just may not happen this year.

“Safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything,” Fauci told the Times. “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.’”

Doctor urges patience, caution

Whatever happens, sports, like the economy, must be started up gradually, Fauci said, warning that a desire to “prematurely get back to normal” could make the virus come roaring back with a vengeance.

“I would love to be able to have all sports back,” Fauci said. “But 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.”

There does seem to be some confusion about Fauci’s position, as he later told Fox News — echoing comments last week that baseball could make a comeback — that there are a “range of options” for the sport. The virus expert had previously said that fans could conceivably watch games in person, as long as audience sizes are limited and fans keep their distance — but his comments to the Times reportedly upset MLB officials.

While he enjoys high approval ratings, Fauci’s appeal has dropped among some who have grown weary of the coronavirus restrictions. The doctor’s advice has led to some head-scratching: for example, he once suggested that people never shake hands again, only to say that it’s okay to have casual sex with strangers during the pandemic, as the New York Post reported.

Fauci has consistently urged caution for those growing impatient with the lockdowns, but his role in the White House coronavirus response has sparked backlash as well as some calls for his firing from frustrated Americans. The virus expert warned this week that a second outbreak is “inevitable” this fall and winter, according to The Hill.

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