With the coronavirus disrupting most major sports this spring, the NFL has benefitted from the timing of its offseason in hopes of playing a full 2020 season. But as parts of the country are battling new surges in cases, a virus expert is sending a warning signal to the league for the months ahead.
Dr. Charlotte Baker, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia Tech, is increasingly doubtful that the NFL season will be completed given the growing number of cases.
“I think it’s not necessarily because of the NFL. I think it’s because of the number of cases we’re going to see with the uptick in the United States,” Baker told NJ.com. “We were expecting a second wave to start in October, November. But with things going the way they are, this wave we’re in right now may not end. So you’re talking about a long-term consequence of what could happen if we don’t, as a country, get everything under control.”
Other health experts have shared similar concerns leading up to the season. The Chargers’ former team doctor cautioned that the season may not be able to carry out the playoffs should a new wave of cases infiltrate the country in the winter. A team doctor for the Detroit Lions echoed that sentiment and warned that such scenario wouldn’t only impact sports but the economy and society in general.
Dr. Anthony Fauci also chimed into NFL discussions with various scenarios for how the league could proceed with games safely. However, as he has warned in regards to other sports leagues, Fauci maintained that the season’s possible outlook will depend on the state of the virus within the country and how response is handled.
“The disease doesn’t care that they’re elite athletes,” Baker agreed. “I don’t think the season is going to look the same as they think it might look. I think it’s more a function of how we’ve handled things [as a country]. Now, we’re getting this uptick in cases because we’re not having the best response about testing and mitigation of the disease.”
Teams are set for a gradual return to training facilities with a set of safety protocols implemented by the league. As for the regular season, there are plans for fans to be in stadiums though select teams – like the Pittsburgh Steelers – are anticipating reduced capacities.