Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that coronavirus complications could mean that the upcoming NFL season could be hugely impacted, or potentially even canceled.
Reigning Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs are due to kick off the 2020 NFL season in a little over 80 days time, but Dr. Fauci – who was one of President Donald Trump’s top advisors throughout the pandemic – says that concerns regarding the safeguarding of players’ health might be impossible to overcome.
Despite the COVID-19 health crisis taking place in the NFL’s offseason, the league’s 32 teams have already felt the impact of the disease.
April’s NFL Draft was downgraded from a star-studded, multi-million-dollar event in Las Vegas to an online-only affair hosted in commissioner Roger Goodell’s basement, while offseason preparations have been hampered by public gathering restrictions.
It may get worse though, warns Fauci.
“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,” he 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.”
It was revealed earlier this week that several players from the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys – including their star running back Ezekiel Elliott – had tested positive for coronavirus, something which Goodell said was inevitable.
“We expect we are going to have positive tests,” Goodell said to ESPN.
“That is part of the increased testing that we will be going through and that is something that we just want to make sure that our protocols are working and to date.
“We are seeing very positive reactions in the sense that we are making sure we respond quickly, protect the personnel that may be impacted by that and others that may be in contact with them.”
NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills issued these comments in response to Dr. Anthony Fauci expressing concern about the upcoming season: pic.twitter.com/8YXrpzKIXS
However, the NFL’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills released a statement following Fauci’s comments to say that robust health and safety guidelines were to be implemented to ensure the safest and most ethical manner possible ahead of the start of the season.
“Make no mistake, this is no easy task,” he 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.”
Chief among the concern of health experts is the potential of a “second wave” of the virus sweeping through the United States towards the end of the year, and while the NFL season is in full swing.
The NFL has already canceled five overseas games (four in London; one in Mexico City) which were intended to take place during the season.