Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director and a key figure leading the nation’s battle with the coronavirus, has repeatedly stressed that only time will determine when and how America can bounce back from COVID-19. But now, he is offering some positive news for those missing America’s pastime amid the pandemic.
In an interview with Peter Hamby via Vanity Fair, Fauci revealed his outlook for baseball to return this summer, albeit under abnormal circumstances. He cautioned a potential start date of July 4 that would inevitably bring the MLB a surge in interest and viewership after months without live sports on television. However, games going forward would likely be without fans in attendance.
“You know, regarding sports, I believe, and I think this is going to be implemented by the initiation and the initiative of the people who own these clubs. If you could get on television, Major League Baseball, to start July 4. Let’s say, nobody comes to the stadium. You just, you do it. I mean people say, ‘Well you can’t play without spectators.’ Well, I think you’d probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game. Particularly me. I’m living in Washington. We have the World Champion Washington Nationals. You know, I want to see them play again,” Fauci said.
He went on to say that in order for major sports leagues to launch their operations, efficient steps must be taken to assure player and personnel health and safety.
“But there’s a way of doing that because there have been some proposals both at the level of the NFL, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, to get these people tested, and to put them in big hotels, you know, wherever you want to play. Keep them very well surveilled, namely a surveillance, but have them tested, like every week. By a gazillion tests. And make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family. And just let them play the season out. I mean, that’s a really artificial way to do it, but when you think about it, it might be better than nothing.”
Fauci’s assessment appears to line up with the reported contingency plans the MLB is brainstorming. Commissioner Rob Manfred revealed this week that he is focused on launching the season in a way that will not place a greater impact on the health crisis. To maintain the health of all involved, the league is reportedly considering a reduced season held solely in Arizona without fans.
As for major concerts and festivals that have been put on hold or moved to the fall, Fauci is less confident those events will be able to take place with full crowds given the chance of outbreak that can stem from such gatherings if the virus is (perhaps unknowingly) present.
“Well, if there’s virus in the community, it makes me really, really nervous. Really nervous because outbreaks and clusters have been the things that have fueled outbreaks in different cities throughout the world,” he explained. “One of the real tragic things was that in Wuhan, the city in which this virus emerged, at a time when it was clear that there was viral transmission in the community, the Chinese held a 40,000-person massive block party celebrating some Chinese festival. That just exploded it. And New Orleans had the Mardi Gras. Look what happened after the Mardi Gras.”
New Orleans has become one of the country’s latest hot spots, accounting for over a quarter all Louisiana cases. New York remains the nation’s epicenter with over 200,000 confirmed cases state-wide and a rising death toll of more than 11,000, though Governor Andrew Cuomo has signaled that the state and metropolitan area is entering its plateau.