Dr. Fauci Says Sports Can Return This Summer but Only If Games Are Played Behind Closed Doors

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), believes the only feasible route to have the major sport leagues back in action in the summer is to have games played behind closed doors.

Speaking to Snapchat's Good Luck America host Peter Hamby, Fauci was cautiously optimistic over the prospect of the NBA, NHL and MLB making a return over the next couple of months, but stressed the ongoing threat of coronavirus meant the summer would come too soon to allow fans in arenas and stadiums.

"Nobody comes to the stadium," he explained.

"Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. [...] Have them tested every single week and make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out."

The NBA was the first major league to suspend operations as the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S., halting proceedings on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive to the virus.

The NHL and MLS swiftly followed suit, while the NCAA moved to cancel March Madness. The MLB, meanwhile, postponed its regular season, which was due to begin on March 26, indefinitely.

So far, football is the only major sport to have largely escaped the impact of coronavirus. The NFL has been forced to hold the draft remotely later this month as opposed to having its planned extravaganza in Las Vegas, but it plans to begin the season as planned on September 10.

Last week, ESPN reported the MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) had received the support of high-ranking federal public health officials after floating the prospect of getting the regular season underway next month behind closed doors.

Federal officials at the CDC and at the National Institute of Health have reportedly offered their support to the idea, but any plans would only be approved if the MLB commits to strictly adhere to the social media distancing guidelines.

The proposal being considered by the MLB would involve all 30 franchises playing games at Chase Field, the home of Arizona Diamondbacks, in Phoenix and at other ballparks in the Phoenix area, including 10 spring training facilities.

Asked specifically whether he thought a potentially shortened MLB season was a feasible prospect and whether the NFL could begin as scheduled in five months, the NIAID director suggested both were realistic possibilities as long as games were played behind closed doors.

Fauci, a prominent member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, acknowledged the arrangement would be far from ideal, but suggested he thought fans would be happy enough to watch games on TV after such a lengthy period without sport.

The comments come a day after Trump told reporters sports will play a crucial role in bringing life back to normal in the U.S.

"We want to get our sports back," he said as he addressed the media in the Rose Garden at the White House. "So importantly. [...] We have to get our sports back. I'm tired of watching baseball games that are 14-years old.

Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park
The sun rises over Fenway Park on what would have been the home opening day for the Boston Red Sox against the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park on April 2 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The game was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox//Getty

As this chart provided by Statista shows, by Wednesday morning, over 609,700 cases have been reported in the U.S., by far the highest tally in the world. Over 26,000 deaths have been recorded in the U.S. and almost 50,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.

Over 126,000 people have died globally since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There have been almost two million confirmed cases globally.

The spread of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S.
The spread of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. STATISTA

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.