While eager fans wait for sports to return in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urges people to remember that public health must come first during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm a sports fan. I think that sports in the United States is a very important part of the culture of the United States. Baseball, the American pastime, but other sports, football, hockey, soccer, basketball, all the kinds of things that are good for the country. Because it's good for your mental health. It's a good way to relax. It's a good way to vicarious, get thrills of seeing stars do what they do," Fauci said in an interview with TheStreet's Katherine Ross.
"So, we all would love to get sports back to where it was normally. But we've got to remember we have responsibility for the health and the welfare of people. If we could do both simultaneously, that would be wonderful."
Major sports leagues around the U.S. have yet to return since suspending their seasons in mid-March amid the pandemic. The NBA is set to resume its season in Orlando in late July with 22 teams, while the NHL plans to hold a modified Stanley Cup Playoffs with 24 teams in two "hub cities" when it deems it safe to return to play.
MLB and the MLB Players Association have yet to settle on the start of the 2020 season as they battle over the number of games to be played and players' salaries. Meanwhile, the NFL released its full 2020 schedule earlier this spring and looks to be on track to start its season on time in the fall.
While leagues are making plans for resumption, Fauci stresses the importance that the return of sports cannot be the same across the U.S.
"We've, obviously, got to be very careful and attentive to the fact that the risk of transmitting when you have people congregated in crowds without masks, and even with masks congregation, still is a risk. The mask mitigates that risk a bit, but you still, as best as possible, to stay out of crowded situations and keep a physical distance," he said.
"The issue is that the United States is a very large country. And it's a heterogeneous country. It is not uni-dimensional. So it's difficult to make statements about the United States as a whole. Because when you look at things, you make decisions regarding exposure, or potential exposure to the virus, based on the dynamics and the extent of the virus in any given location. And when I say location, I say, region, state, city, town, county, or what have you."
Some states like Arizona and New York have already allowed sports to resume without fans, while Texas has given fans the green light to attend outdoor professional sporting events in nearly every county at up to 25% capacity.