Everything Dr. Fauci Has Said About When Sports Can Restart

Since the NBA became the first major U.S. league shuttered due to the novel coronavirus pandemic on March 11, Americans have turned to Dr. Anthony Fauci for answers as to when professional sports can resume.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has repeatedly urged fans to be patient and warned leagues that getting the wheels of professional sports moving again could be fraught with risks.

The MLS will restart next week, with the NBA and MLB to follow suit before the end of the month. The NHL is in the process of finalizing its plans to resume and the NFL expects to kick off its season on September 10.

However, while sports have moved forward with their resumption plans, cases of COVID-19 have spiked again in the U.S., with over 15 states either slowing down or altogether suspending plans to reopen after the lockdown.

Here's a timeline of what Fauci has said about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on sports and their possible return dates.

April 2

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Speaking to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's Basketball and Beyond show on SiriusXM Radio just two weeks after U.S. sports had been ground to a halt by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Fauci explained the country faced a difficult and protracted battle with the virus.

"The game is going to go on for several weeks, Coach K," he explained. "The issue is that we have a large country and we have different metropolitan areas.

"We are not yet at the point where we're turning the corner and we're coming around the bend and coming down as a country.

"There are some cities that have not yet even begun to spike and it's our absolute responsibility to make sure that in those cities that people understand what they need to do to prevent that explosive spike."

April 14

A month after the NBA and NHL suspended their seasons because of coronavirus, Fauci explained the only feasible route to have the major sports leagues back in action in the summer was to have games played behind closed doors.

"Nobody comes to the stadium," he told Snapchat's Good Luck America host Peter Hamby.

"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 model Fauci proposed has since been adopted by the NBA, which will resume on July 31 at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Players and staff of the 22 teams taking part will be isolated in a bubble-like environment and only three arenas will be used.

May 10

Just days after the NFL released its 256-game regular-season slate and reiterated its desire to kick-off the 2020 season as scheduled on September 10, Fauci warned football was the perfect environment for the novel coronavirus to spread.

"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," he told NBC's Peter King.

"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."

Fauci then reiterated testing was non-negotiable if sports were to return sooner rather than later, but admitted it presented an enormous logistical challenge.

"To be 100 percent sure, you've got to test every day," he explained.

"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."

June 15

As negotiations between the MLB and the MLB Players Association over a shortened regular season continued, Fauci warned baseball should not be played beyond October.

"If the question is time, I would try to keep it in the core summer months and end it not with the way we play the World Series, until the end of October when it's cold," he told the Los Angeles Times.

"Under most circumstances—but we don't know for sure here—viruses do better when the weather starts to get colder and people start spending more time inside, as opposed to outside," he continued.

"The community has a greater chance of getting infected. The likelihood is that, if you stick to the core summer months, you are better off, even though there is no guarantee."

July 2

Speaking to Howard Bauchner, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci dismissed claims from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that he was deliberately standing in the way of professional sports returning.

"I do not make any determinations about what sport can or should be played," he told Bauchner.

"What I do is I answer questions based on scientific evidence and public health judgment. I don't tell anybody whether they should or could or might or not play a season or not play a season.

"And yet that has somehow, beyond me, gotten to the point where all of a sudden I've become like a gatekeeper for professional sports."

As of Friday morning over 2.74 million cases of coronavirus had been reported in the U.S., by far the highest tally of any country in the world.

Of the over 521,500 deaths recorded worldwide so far, more than 128,700 have been in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.

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Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on June 30, 2020. AL DRAGO/AFP via Getty Images
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