By Agence France-Presse
The NFL and major US college football programs probably must look at a “bubble” format to conduct a season due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Thursday.
Fauci, a leading medical voice on the White House task force dealing with the deadly virus outbreak, told CNN the nature of the sport and the method of transmitting COVID-19 could make any sort of 2020 campaign problematic.
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci told CNN.
“If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”
NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills responded to Fauci’s comments in a statement to NFL Network, saying the league continued to work with the players union and medical advisers to “mitigate the health risk to players.
“Make no mistake, this is no easy task,” Sills said. “We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel and attendees.
“We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed.”
In a conference call on Wednesday, Sills said the idea of the NFL playing in a bubble was a non-starter.
He dismissed the notion of isolating entire teams in a manner similar for what the NBA intends when it plans to return in an Orlando in what it calls a campus-like set-up next month.
“We do not feel it’s practical or appropriate to construct a bubble,” Sills said. “Anyone who tests positive will be isolated until medically appropriate to return.”
The NFL and its players union remain in talks on exact details, including testing plans.
The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans have already had multiple players test positive for COVID-19 and with the intense physical contact, huddles to sort out offensive and defensive schemes and a need for communication, the NFL can do only so much to minimize risk for players.
The league remains scheduled to start training camps next month as regularly scheduled with pre-season games in August and the regular-season opener on September 10 at Kansas City between the defending champion Chiefs and the Texans.
Sills warned “it won’t feel normal because it won’t be normal” regarding the upcoming season.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh complained about COVID-19 safety plans he had seen from the league in a memo to all clubs, saying they were “humanly impossible” to follow.
Sills says NFL safety protocols are still being developed, including modified facemasks to better protect players, with the COVID-19 test regimen possibly changing during the season as medical progress is made.