The nation’s leading advisor on the fight against coronavirus believes sports can return and in a live interview on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci outlined the strict process by which he sees return-to-play scenarios possible. His thoughts mirror at least one NHL return-to-play scenario.
Fauci is the Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a primary member of the Presidential taskforce to combat the (COVID-19) pandemic, is also a Washington Nationals fan. Wednesday, he participated in a Snapchat interview.
Dr. Fauci believes sports can return, and it sounds like he believes the could return in the near future.
“There’s a way of doing that. Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled,” Fauci said. “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.”
If Dr. Fauci says OK, then we’re 100% on board. The Korean Baseball league (KBO) has begun play in empty stadiums, and media reports suggest ESPN has made an offer for the broadcast rights.
The NHL suspended its season over a month ago and extended its request that players self-quarantine. To ensure a chance at the earliest possible NHL return to play actions, the league prolonged the self-quarantine from April 15 to April 30, on Monday.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were set to play a game in Columbus on March 11. Fans were initially barred from the game, but later, the game was postponed. Shortly afterward, the league paused the season due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“People say, ‘Well, you know, you can’t play without spectators,’ ” Fauci said. “Well, I think you’ll probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game, particularly me. Living in Washington, we have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again.”
We wouldn’t mind seeing the Washington Capitals, either, Dr. Fauci. If the Capitals are playing, that means the Pittsburgh Penguins are also on the ice, though under one return-to-play scenario, the Penguins could rejoin the season in Round One of the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers.
In addition to the NHL’s neutral site idea, in which Grand Forks, ND seems the most likely destination, MLB has discussed a 10-site Arizona plan, too.
There are obvious issues with an NHL return-to-play scenario after multiple months off. Players have not been able to skate, so conditioning will be a significant issue, as will finding enough time to get into game shape.
The NHL is willing to delay the 2020-21 season until November because the league believes the removal of bye weeks, the All-Star break and the holidy break could get the league back on schedule.
The White House and coronavirus taskforce are expected to roll out an outline for states to reopen businesses and society, on Thursday. States will be able to implement their own reopening schedules and procedures, and political debate is sure to follow.
Perhaps we will need sports more than ever.