JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the schedules out, the NFL draft in the rearview and virtual offseason programs in full swing, is it time to start thinking about football?
Well, we’re permitted to think and talk about it all that we want, but when we will see actual games again is still, at this point, optimistic projections.
In an interview with Peter King that was published Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and a common sight at press briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic, said it’s far too early to hold tight to schedules three and four months out.
“I think it’s feasible that negative testing players could play to an empty stadium,” Fauci said to King. “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.”
King’s interview with Fauci can be found here.
Fauci said that it’s not unrealistic that if a player or multiple players on the same team tests positive for COVID-19 that a potential two-week team quarantine can be enforced. How would the NFL deal with such an issue?
Playing games right now isn’t possible. As we saw last week with the return to sports and the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Jacksonville, fighter Ronaldo Souza was scratched from the card when he tested positive for COVID-19 a day before the Saturday bout. But the first NFL regular season games are four months away (the first is Sept. 10, the full slate is Sept. 13), and things will evolve substantially with the coronavirus in that span.
Fauci said what makes the virus so difficult to shake is that a test that is negative on a Friday could be positive on a Saturday.
“To be 100% sure, you’ve got to test every day. But that’s not practical and that’s never going to happen. But you can diminish dramatically by testing everybody Saturday night, Sunday morning, and say, ‘OK, only negative players play,’” he said.
He said the virus doesn’t spread by the transmission of sweat, but the physical contact of football means that players would easily transmit it.
“Sweat does not do it,” Fauci said. “This is a respiratory virus, so it’s going to be spread by shedding virus. The problem with virus shedding is that if I have it in my nasal pharynx, and it sheds and I wipe my hand against my nose — now it’s on my hand. You see, then I touch my chest or my thigh, then it’s on my chest or my thigh for at least a few hours. Sweat as such won’t transmit it. But if people are in such close contact as football players are on every single play, then that’s the perfect set up for spreading. I would think that if there is an infected football player on the field — a middle linebacker, a tackle, whoever it is it — as soon as they hit the next guy, the chances are that they will be shedding virus all over that person."