NAIAD Director Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged some professional sports leagues might have to call off their seasons unless coronavirus testing becomes widely available to the American public in the coming weeks and months.
Fauci, one of the leaders of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told the New York Times that aggressive testing would be key to preventing a resurgent outbreak, and rushing back before then could be a mistake.
“If we let our desire to prematurely get back to normal, we can only get ourselves right back in the same hole we were in a few weeks ago,” Dr. Fauci said.
Fauci's remarks come as some US states have begun easing lockdown restrictions, a measure which has intensified speculation over the past week or so about the possible return of the NBA and MLB being on the horizon -- potentially in a "biosphere" scenario, where seasons would be played out in one or two stadiums without fans in attendance.
Fauci himself advocated such a plan on a couple weeks ago.
But Fauci appeared less optimistic in the Times report, and cautioned that the safety of players and fans is the No. 1 priority.
“If you can’t guarantee safety, then unfortunately you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘We may have to go without this sport for this season.’”
If play resumes, it should happen gradually so infection rates can be carefully monitored, Fauci added. The New York native, a Yankees fan by birth and adoptive Nationals fan, said he won't feel comfortable returning to a stadium until the infection rate decreases drastically.
Recent studies have shown most Americans agree, with over half saying they would not return to large public gatherings like sports venues until a couple months after lockdown restrictions had been eased.
Player unions from several professional sports leagues, including the NFL, have called for similar testing measures to be in place before resuming play.