No Football This Fall? Doctors Say It's Possible

David Boclair

Those who doubt what Dr. Anthony Fauci says regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic likely are few. As Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci is one of the country’s leading experts on numerous health issues.

So, it made headlines Thursday when he declared, “football may not happen this year” during an appearance on CNN.

In the case of the NFL, his skepticism comes from the league’s far-ranging geography, the size of the rosters and other factors clash with the best ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely to experience a second wave in the coming months. The most effective course of action, Dr. Fauci believes, is to isolate teams in central locations as the NBA plans to do for the resumption of its 2019-20 campaign.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University, echoed some Dr. Fauci’s beliefs but suspects that those notions ultimately will fall on deaf ears.

"I think in this matter, Dr. Fauci's admissions and suggestions will be taken into account, but I am not sure the [NFL, MLB, etc.] will follow them,” Dr. Schaffner told AllTitans earlier this week. “… You may have you quarantine the players. You may have to do contact tracing and quarantine those people, test them very quickly to see how many of them turn positive if any and return them as quickly as possible.

“You can't assume that everybody is negative from beginning to end. That's unrealistic.”

NFL officials have canceled plans for their annual international games, which this year were set for London (four) and Mexico City (one).

Beyond that, though, the league currently plans to stick to its schedule that leads to the start of the regular season in 12 weeks. Of course, training camps will function differently based on what is happening with the global health crisis, but league-wide protocols and best practices have not yet been detailed.

"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," the NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said in a statement Thursday, via SI.com. "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."

Even with that, it is highly likely that every team will have to deal directly with the disease at some point. If there is even a season, of course.

“It may very well be for the NFL, as it has for other sports, an incredible year of sacrifice for the health and safety of players, coaches and other people who are needed to help the game flourish,” Dr. David Aronoff, the director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s infectious diseases division, told AllTitans. “They need to continue to understand the health and wellness of their league is the No. 1 thing.

“Everyone wants to see sports back in action, but this is a rapidly changing situation. All the best laid plans may turn to dust if this pandemic doesn’t quiet down.”

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