As the White House unveiled a set of guidelines for states to determine if they can start reopening their economies, a question is just how possible it will be for major sporting events to resume.
He told reporters that “many of them will be starting without the fans, so it will be made for television, the good old days, made for television. And it will go that way, and maybe the fans will start coming in. Maybe they will be separated by two seats. and then ultimately we want to have packed arenas when the virus is gone. When the virus is gone, we want to have packed arenas and we are going to be back to enjoying sports the way they are supposed to be.”
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The guidelines set out a three-phase approach to restarting the economy, whether through returning to workplaces or restarting social activities at bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other large venues.
In the first phase, the White House recommends that sporting venues that do reopen adhere to “strict” social distancing guidelines, with those restrictions easing in subsequent phases.
Trump is leaving it up to states to determine when and how they plan to start lifting stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions, a reversal of his assertion earlier in the week that he had authority over their decisions.
Trump spoke to commissioners of major sports leagues earlier this week. As the crisis worsened in March, the NBA and the NHL suspended their seasons and Major League Baseball postponed its opening games, leaving ESPN and broadcast networks with a huge gap in their programming. The leagues are said to be considering plans in which teams would play in a single city, reducing the need for travel.
The White House guidelines also set similar physical distancing recommendations for movie theaters and other venues.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this week that pro sports could return without the fans and strict procedures to protect members of the team. On Thursday, he told reporters that it was “conceivable” that large gatherings, like sporting events and concerts, could resume for sporting events during phase three of the guidelines. “I think there will always have to be attention to make sure that we don’t do all that packing together,” he said.
But he said that there could be a rebound of the virus that would again require stricter measures.
“There may be some setbacks. Let’s face it. This is uncharted water,” Fauci said.
The guidelines include a set of “criteria” that states should meet before going to the first phase of reopening businesses and other public venues. That includes a downward trajectory of cases over a 14-day period, as well as showing that states have the ability to quickly set up testing, contact tracing and screening for cases. As the guidelines were announced, the testing issue remained the largest question.
On MSNBC, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel said that “they’re still focused win testing people with symptoms, the healthcare worker for symptoms and other people who come in with symptoms. The problem with that is, if you are trying to contain spread, it is the asymptomatic people who don’t have symptoms that are your real threat. I’m asymptomatic. I go to a big venue. I distribute the virus to other people.”
The guidelines contain no timeline, but Trump has been angling for a May 1 date to see social distancing restrictions lifted. At the briefing, he suggested that a number of states that have not been as impacted by the coronavirus crisis could move sooner.
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