Sports fans are fervently asking: "Will the NFL play this year," and "Will there be college football in 2020?" For those of you who can't wait for college football and the NFL to return, you're not going to appreciate Dr. Anthony Fauci's response to those pertinent questions.
Dr. Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a lead member of the White House task force on the coronavirus, is skeptical about football returning in 2020. He warned that football teams would need to emulate plans by the NBA, NHL, WNBA, Major League Soccer, and National Women's Soccer League for a "bubble" environment to play during the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
"Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," Fauci told CNN on Thursday morning.
Fauci hinted that there might not be football in 2020.
"If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year," he said.
The NBA's bubble plan is to have 22 teams assemble at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando in early July, where players will be sequestered at hotels on the grounds: Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs, the Grand Floridian, and the Yacht Club. Families of the NBA players and coaches will not be allowed to visit them until Aug. 31.
There isn't much time for the NFL and NCAA football teams to develop a "bubble" model. NFL players are currently scheduled to attend training camp on July 22. The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, scheduled for Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio, likely will be without fans in attendance if it happens, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday. The preseason game will feature the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
The NFL regular season is scheduled to kick off on Sept. 10, including the defending Super Bowl LIV champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans in a rematch of 2019's AFC divisional playoff game.
The NCAA Division I Council approved a six-week practice plan that starts as early as July 13, followed by an enhanced training schedule that begins July 24 and a normal, four-week preseason camp beginning on Aug. 7.
"This is the year you want to keep them in this kind of a bubble, as opposed to sending them back out into their own communities," West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons said of keeping students at college instead of sending them back home if they become infected.
In May, Fauci said football is the "perfect setup" to spread COVID-19.
"But if people are in such close contact as football players are on every single play, then that's the perfect setup for spreading," Fauci said. "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," he added. "And you say, Those who are infected: 'Sorry, you're sidelined.' Those who are free: 'Get in there and play.'"
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported that a source informed him on Monday that the NFL Players Association told its members that they could be tested roughly every three days for COVID-19 and isolated if they test positive.
In the past week, Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, and a football player at West Virginia have tested positive for the coronavirus.
"We expect we are going to have positive tests," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday. "That is part of the increased testing that we will be going through and that is something that we just want to make sure that our protocols are working and to date. We are seeing very positive reactions in the sense that we are making sure we respond quickly, protect the personnel that may be impacted by that and others that may be in contact with them."