A renowned expert in the field of infectious disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci is unable to envision players getting back on the football field any time soon.
Testing is the only way to a return, Fauci told NBC’s Peter King, and even then constant spread of the coronavirus is highly likely between teammates and opponents.
“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. 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. And you say, Those who are infected: Sorry, you’re sidelined. Those who are free: Get in there and play.”
The NFL could expand rosters to include practice squad players but there is no way to accurately predict how rapidly the coronavirus could spread once it penetrates a locker room.
Fauci himself spoke to King from quarantine after two White House staffers tested positive last week. That’s why Fauci thinks testing – consistent and widespread – is the key to getting football and everyday life back on track.
“If I test today, and I’m negative, you don’t know if I got exposed tomorrow. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to get exposed and be positive the next day. To give you an example, you’re probably reading in the newspapers that there’s an infection in the White House. I was exposed to that person. So I immediately got tested. I am negative. So, I’m negative yesterday. I don’t know if I’m going to be negative Monday. Understand? It’s almost an impossible situation,” Fauci said.
“To be 100 percent 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.”
The NCAA could delay college football for several months, but the NFL released its schedule for the 2020 season with designs on playing preseason games in less than 90 days.
A second round or the return of coronavirus is being projected already, and Fauci is among the experts who believe that a reduction in positive tests this summer would mean only the end of the first wave. He said for that reason, all plans for pro sports should be etched in pencil.
“Even if the virus goes down dramatically in June and July and August, as the virus starts returning in the fall, it would be in my mind, shame on us if we don’t have in place all of the mechanisms to prevent it from blowing up again. In other words, enough testing to test everybody that needs to be tested. Enough testing so that when someone gets infected, you could immediately do contact tracing and isolation to prevent the infection from going to a couple of infections to hundreds of infections. That’s how you control an outbreak,” Fauci added.
So, we’ll be cautiously looking forward to cheering our teams on… at least virtually… if not in person at the stadium.
P.S. Dave highlighted Dr. Fauci’s Senate testimony below: