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Dr. Fauci: Some Sports May Have to Wait

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In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading public health expert on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, discussed the possibility of sports in the US returning this year.

Leagues across the country are currently mulling plans for restarting play, ideally this summer.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, said that a key variable will be whether the country is able to test large groups of people in a safe and expedient manner. Although the rate of confirmed cases of the virus is decreasing across the country, Fauci said there will likely be a second surge.

Here are the most important quotes from his interview:

On what needs to happen before sports return:
  • “What we need to do is get it, as a country and as individual locations, under control. That sometimes takes longer than you would like, and if we let our desire to prematurely get back to normal, we can only get ourselves right back in the same hole we were in a few weeks ago.”

  • “We’ve got to make sure that when we try to get back to normal, including being able to play baseball in the summer and football in the fall and basketball in the winter, that when we do come back to some form of normality, we do it gradually and carefully. And when cases do start to rebound — which they will, no doubt — that we have the capability of identifying, isolating and contact tracing.”

On playing without spectators:
  • “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.”

On how many tests need to be performed:
  • “I don’t think you should put a number on it. I think it depends on the level of outbreak and how many people you’re going to have to contact trace. Then when you have things under control, then you can start doing surveillance studies and getting out there looking for antibodies.”

If it’s fair that sports leagues get first access to tests:
  • “I hope when we get to that point, when we’re going to try and get the sports figures tested, then we will have enough tests so that anybody who needs a test can get a test. I can’t give you a date, but I know that tests are rapidly scaling up in numbers over the next several weeks and months.”

And if some sports might simply have to skip a season:
  • “I don’t want to make this conversation sound like it’s going to be an easy thing. We may not be able to pull this off. We’re going to have to see: Is it doable? Do we have the capability of doing it safely? Because safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything. 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.’”