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Fauci explains why quarantined games are likely part of ‘new normal’ in sports

ARASH MARKAZI
Los Angeles Times (TNS)
Dr. Anthony Fauci

Sports fans will have to embrace a “new normal,” which probably means not being able to attend live events at crowded stadiums, for the rest of this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert who often gives updates during President Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings, told the YES Network on Monday that sports could resume this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic but games would have to take place in venues without fans or with fans practicing social distancing.

“I cannot see a return this year to what we consider normal,” Fauci said. “There would have to be some degree of (social distancing). It could be as stringent as only television or it could in the stadium with significant difference of space between people and even then, wearing a facial cover.”

The most likely path to games in the short term might be the much-talked-about “Arizona bubble plan” where all 30 teams would be quarantined in central Arizona hotels and play games in 10 spring training ballparks without fans. Fauci believes that plan could work.

“People who know more about baseball structure than I do have said it, but I think it’s reasonable,” Fauci said. “You could either have a situation where you get the group of players together and you put them in a few cities and you make sure they’re not infected and you test them so they don’t infect each other and you have baseball – as much as it’s tough to say – in a spectator-less environment. You have people playing in which people can watch it on television. The revenues are not going to be the same as when you have a packed stadium, but I think having them play on television is certainly better than nothing.

“Another version of that is to limit the amount of people in a stadium and make sure you seat them in a way where they are really quite separated and maybe even wearing facial covers and masks. I know people look at that and say, ‘What are you, crazy?’ but to me, it’s better than no baseball at all.”

It may be possible to seat fans six feet apart and make sure they’re six feet apart in concession lines and bathroom lines, but Fauci said it’s more likely that live sports will return this year without fans.

“I think it’s quite likely, although it’s always dangerous to predict, I think it’s more likely that you’re going to have television baseball than spectator baseball,” he said.

Fauci thinks having live games again could provide some comfort to people at home. The Brooklyn native, who grew up a Yankees fan, said he attends about a dozen Washington Nationals games a year and watches another 50 or so on television.

“I love baseball,” Fauci said. “I played baseball in the sandlot leagues and the Coney Island league in New York City and I love watching it. I’m a very strong baseball fan. I just love the rhythm of the game. It soothes me. When I’m really stressed, I go to (Nationals Park) and sit down and watch Max (Scherzer) and watch Stephen (Strasberg), it makes me feel good.”