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Virologist: ‘No sport can consider bringing back fans’ once play resumes

CenturyLink Field (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

How exactly will the future of sports look once basketball, football, and baseball return in the United States? Odds are it will very likely be without fans in stadiums.

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“No sport can consider right now bringing back the fans,” Columbia University virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

Seahawks games where tens of thousands of fans are screaming at the top of their lungs — while great for disorienting opposing teams — are also “a great opportunity for mass transmission.” Suffice it to say, when it comes to resuming sports, the presence of fans is what Dr. Rasmussen sees “one of the biggest risks.”

That being so, she also sees a path forward for sports to resume nonetheless, albeit with some measures that are less than ideal for the families of athletes.

“They should consider having some type of sequestration plan, in which the players are potentially staying in hotels and staying away from their families, which is really lousy for the players,” she described. “But it may actually be safer, since they’re going to be engaging in physical contact and potentially being at higher risk of exposure.”

Beyond that, a handful of other measures may also need to be in place to ensure player safety.

That includes frequent, routine testing of players, coaches, and support staff. Ensuring physical distancing is enforced whenever possible will also be crucial, although that’s something that’s harder for some sports than it is for others.

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“Something like basketball or football is going to be more challenging in terms of protecting the players,” Dr. Rasmussen pointed out. “For baseball, apart from when they’re in the dugout, baseball players usually aren’t in close physical proximity with each other very often.”

Major League Baseball is currently still in discussions with players over the various measures that will be implemented, while the season’s start date — originally slated for late-March/early-April — remains up in the air.

The NBA season, which was put on pause at the start of pandemic, plans to start back up again at some point this year, and is reportedly nearing an agreement on when exactly that will be.

At least for now, the NFL plans to proceed with its season as scheduled, with talk of playing in empty stadiums with no fans.

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