Dr. Anthony Fauci: Sports could return from coronavirus hiatus this summer without fans

The coronavirus pandemic might not shut down sports all year, according to the nation’s top expert in infectious diseases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on March 30.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on March 30. [ ALEX BRANDON | AP ]
Published April 15, 2020|Updated April 16, 2020

Fans holding out hope for the return of some sporting events this summer during the coronavirus pandemic got a glimmer of hope Wednesday morning from the nation’s foremost expert on infectious diseases.

“There’s a way of doing that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a Good Luck America interview on Snapchat. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put them in big hotels, wherever you want to play. Keep them well surveilled … but have them tested, like, every week. And make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family. Just let them play their season out.”

Fauci’s ideas are not revolutionary on their own; similar ideas have been floating around the sports world over the last few weeks. Major League Baseball has kicked around the possibility of playing its games in Arizona, or splitting itself into an Arizona league and a Florida league.

Related: How the coronavirus pandemic has impacted college football recruiting

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that we’re “starved” for entertainment content. Maybe Florida could host a NASCAR race without fans or a golf challenge between superstars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, but Major League Baseball downplayed the possibility of a quick return in Florida in a statement Tuesday night to the Tampa Bay Times.

“MLB has been working diligently to plan for many different contingencies, and one of many ideas that has been discussed has been to play some of our games (in) Florida when the public heath situation allows for it," MLB said. “We are appreciative that the governor is open to playing games in Florida as one potential solution, but we all agree that such efforts can only be undertaken in a manner that does not endanger public health, nor the health of our players and fans. We will continue to be guided by those principles.”

Regardless, Fauci’s comments are noteworthy because he isn’t a governor, commissioner, player or athletic director. He is a public health official whose expertise have helped shape America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic so far and will help guide the nation’s return to normalcy, whatever that looks like.

“People say you can’t play without spectators,” Fauci said in the Snapchat interview. “Well I think you probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game. I’ve been living in Washington. We have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again.”

Maybe even this summer.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

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