NFL executives are planning on having a full 2020 season without delay. But the league’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, is cautioning against any assumption that the season will be able to do that.
And what he believes needs to happen for any team sport to return should have everyone concerned about the return of sports any time soon.
Sills: Can’t reopen sports with quarantine guidelines
As of now, most of the country is in a lockdown with residents being advised to stay at home and non-essential businesses shut down. Those who test positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus and those who were around that person are put in a mandatory quarantine for 14 days, the incubation period of the disease.
That, Sills told NFL.com, is the problem with bringing back sports and really any group activity.
This quote from NFL's chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, is pretty telling of the future for all pro sports (via NFL) pic.twitter.com/GDUSpvMXMH— Mark J. Burns (@markjburns88) April 3, 2020
COVID-19 is spread mainly person-to-person and is very contagious.
Sills: We need widespread testing
Sills, who is in charge of the NFL’s response to the pandemic, told NFL.com widespread point of care testing will be important to determine when teams can report to facilities. Those tests need to be available around the country and with tests returned quickly.
It’s not currently available. Testing takes a day or typically longer to provide results and many states are reporting back logs of tests. There are few to give out and many people are unable to get in to take a test until it’s too late. Experts have said that widespread testing is “absolutely essential to control the epidemic,” per NPR.
Sills said he’s confident the tests will eventually be available. When it is, the tests would have to be administered to players and team personnel frequently.
As for the tens of thousands of fans who attend games every Sunday? Sills said it’s too early to determine how that would be handled until a vaccine is available, which could be a year away.
Will the NFL season be postponed?
The NFL said Tuesday they’re expecting the season to go on as scheduled. From Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson:
“Our planning — our expectation — is fully directed at playing a full season starting on schedule and having a full regular season and full set of playoffs,” NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash said on a conference call, giving an update on the league’s handling of the COVID-19 fallout.
“… Am I certain? I’m not certain that I’ll be here tomorrow. But I’m planning on it, and same thing — we are planning on having a full season.”
Sills clarified to NFL.com that it’s everyone’s hope to start on time and the league is positioned to do that as of now. But things change and “it’s certainly not the only outcome,” he said.
“I think what was implied there was to say we are not at a point where we are saying that is absolutely not going to happen so we should continue our planning and preparations as if we're going to be able to do that,” Sills said, via NFL.com. “But obviously we're going to have to evaluate that along the way. And follow what the recommendations are from public health officials and from our infectious disease experts and others."
There is no timetable for the decision and other logistics would have to be worked out since April offseason programs will not take place as planned and fitness centers around the country are closed due to the pandemic. Social distancing is also a factor, since players should not be within 6 feet of one another.
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