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Dr. Anthony Fauci: ‘Football may not happen’ if there’s a second coronavirus wave

Dr. Anthony Fauci listens as President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus at the White House on May 15
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that because of a potential second coronavirus wave in the fall, football likely will have to be played “in a bubble,” if at all this year.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Dr. Anthony Fauci might not be too popular among sports fans right now.

Days after recommending that baseball wrap up its season early because of an expected second wave of the coronavirus in the fall, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases had this to say about a sport that typically would just be getting started around that time:

“Football may not happen this year.”

Whoa. There’s context to add to Fauci’s comment to CNN correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, but still ... whoa.

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Both the NFL and NCAA have been making plans to proceed with their football seasons as scheduled this fall, likely with few or no fans present for games and numerous other precautions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several members of the Cowboys and Texans recently tested positive for COVID-19, reports say. Ezekiel Elliott’s agent said his client is one of the players.

Fauci suggested an extreme version of those plans might be the only viable option for football in 2020.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and ... tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci told Gupta.

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The NBA has such a plan in place to resume its 2020 season this summer at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.

But, Fauci warned, the same type of plan would be a best-case scenario for a fall sport such as football.

“If there is a second wave,” Fauci said, “which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills issued a statement Thursday in response to Fauci’s comments.

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“Dr. Fauci has identified the important health and safety issues we and the NFL Players Association, together with our joint medical advisors, are addressing to mitigate the health risk to players, coaches, and other essential personnel,” Sills said. “We are developing a comprehensive and rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem. This is based on the collective guidance of public health officials, including the White House task force, the CDC, infectious disease experts, and other sports leagues.

“Make no mistake, this is no easy task. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel, and attendees. We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed.”

Last month, Fauci told NBC Sports it might be possible to have an NFL season this fall even amid a second wave of the virus, provided there was sufficient testing in place at that point.

“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 in May. “And you say, ‘Those who are infected: Sorry, you’re sidelined. Those who are free: Get in there and play.’”


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