Dr. Anthony Fauci Gives Timeline On When Sports Stadiums Will See Fans Again

Fauci discussed how sports fans should prepare themselves for more crowdless stadiums in 2021.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and has acted as America’s main authority during the Covid-19 pandemic. Recently, Fauci spoke with the press to discuss when all of the cultural institutions that we know and love will be able to welcome back its fans, and one of the biggest questions was regarding professional sports. 

Fauci told the media that “unrestricted capacities at sports stadiums will be among the last thing[s] that you’re gonna see as the United States pushes toward the end of the pandemic in 2021.” Specifically Fauci was asked about the possibility of a fully packed 20,000-seat NBA game in July, to which he responded that it would be “cutting it close.” The return of tightly-packed crowds in any context is going to be dependent on a multitude of variables, including human behavior, vaccinations, and new infection rates. 

Fauci explained that when the vaccine is officially approved and begins its distribution process, highest-priority individuals will be the first to receive it, and that will likely occur between December and March. These high priority individuals include healthcare workers who are on the front lines fighting this pandemic with the hundreds of thousands of individuals who are currently battling the virus. The general public will likely not receive the vaccine until the end of April and into the summer. 

“If a lot of people get vaccinated, it probably will be well into the end of the summer before you can really feel comfortable with full sports stadiums.”

NFL stadiums, on the other hand, are more likely to see fans in its seating due to the fact that most football stadiums are outdoors or have some sort of outdoor exposure. All of it, however, is dependent on how much worse the pandemic gets, and how easily the country is able to recover once a vaccine begins circulating. According to public health officials, the timeline to return to a life of normalcy for America will depend on how willing the American public is to being vaccinated. Surveys have already suggested that roughly half of the adults living in the US don’t want to be vaccinated right away.

“Having an efficacious vaccine in and of itself doesn’t get us out of this difficult situation we’re in. But an efficacious vaccine that’s widely utilized could get us to a point where we’re really approaching normality,” Fauci said, adding that if 50% of Americans choose not to get vaccinated, a sense of normalcy won’t be reached for quite some time. He stated there is no solid percentage of Americans who will need to be vaccinated but thinks it’s somewhere between 75% – 85% in order for a true balance to be restored. 

The reopening of sporting events and other large gatherings will be a gradual process as well. Sports commissioners are already gearing up to follow step-by-step guidelines for easing restrictions and continuing out sporting events in 2021. At first, teams will likely allow limited capacity seating and will then spend weeks monitoring data trends regarding new cases in the area. That data will determine whether or not more fans can enter into those spaces or not. 

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“We release a set of restrictions, and then see if that works, so if we go four weeks and there’s no increase in virus activity, well then you can go and do the next set.”

All covid-adjusted stadium capacities will likely be dependent on the city, county and state governments, as it has been. Leagues and teams will likely institute their own rules that will also have to abide by government imposed regulations. For example, in Florida the state’s three NFL teams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and Jacksonville Jaguars – have all been playing with an independently determined limited stadium capacity, while states like New York and California are still barring any fans from entering into sports stadiums. 

The NFL for the most part has allowed each of its teams to create their own guidelines based on local safety standards and procedures. Texas is allowing its teams to operate with a 50% capacity; the Dallas Cowboys recently welcomed 30,048 fans to AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving while the San Francisco 49ers stayed home, as they aren’t even allowed to play at Levi’s stadium. 

The NBA is operating under the same team-by-team mentality when referring to the 2021 season, however, the Association itself distributed a memo to teams recently that outlined a “uniform league-wide standards” that everyone must abide by. These standards include “requirements for pre-arrival or upon-arrival symptom and exposure surveys,  mask-wearing at all times – except when actively eating or drinking -, physical distancing, and testing.”

The pandemic will likely come to an end in 2021 as long as everyone gets on the same page in terms of abiding by health and safety procedures, and being vaccinated. The process will likely take a while, but cultural institutions such as sports stadiums will begin to reopen as the progression of this virus slows. 

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