Dr. Fauci says NFL season is feasible: ‘The virus will make the decision for us’

Dr. Anthony Fauci feels it would be “impossible” to start the NFL amid the coronavirus outbreak right now.

But, luckily, the season isn’t scheduled to start for several months. And in an interview with NBC Sports’ Peter King, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases sounded somewhat optimistic about the prospects of playing NFL games this fall.

“I think it’s feasible that negative-testing players could play to an empty stadium,” said Fauci, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force. “Is it guaranteed? No way.... There will be virus out there and you will know your players are negative at the time they step onto the field. You’re not endangering ... Also, if the virus is so low that even in the general community the risk is low, then I could see filling a third of the stadium or half the stadium so people could be six feet apart.


“I mean, that’s something that is again feasible depending on the level of infection. I keep getting back to that: It’s going to depend. Like, right now, if you fast-forward, and it is now September. The season starts. I say you can’t have a season — it’s impossible. There’s too much infection out there. It doesn’t matter what you do. But I would hope that by the time you get to September it’s not gonna be the way it is right now.”

While the 2020 NFL season faces some uncertainties because of the coronavirus, the league leaned on a familiar road map in constructing the season schedule.

Fauci said an abundance of testing would be key — as would the willingness of the NFL to sideline even the biggest stars if they test positive.

“If you really want to be in a situation where you want to be absolutely certain, you’d test all the players before the game,” Fauci said. “And you say, ‘Those who are infected: Sorry, you’re sidelined. Those who are free: Get in there and play.’”

That scenario hinges on the availability of testing, something Fauci hopes won’t be an issue even if there is another outbreak in the fall.

“Even if the virus goes down dramatically in June and July and August, as the virus starts returning in the fall, it would be in my mind, shame on us if we don’t have in place all of the mechanisms to prevent it from blowing up again,” Fauci told King. “In other words, enough testing to test everybody that needs to be tested. Enough testing so that when someone gets infected, you could immediately do contact tracing and isolation to prevent the infection from going from a couple of infections to hundreds of infections. That’s how you control an outbreak.

If the NBA resumes play, Adam Silver says it must stay on course even in the face of a positive COVID-19 test. Meanwhile, the UFC made that decision in real time.

“So, practically speaking, the success or failure, the ability or not, to actually have a football season is going to depend on just what I said ... but what I’m really saying is it’s unpredictable depending upon how we respond in the fall.”

Fauci summed up the possibility of having an NFL season with one sentence.

“The virus will make the decision for us,” he said.