Dr. Anthony Fauci: Coronavirus testing availability, speed will play part in football's return

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is leading the White House’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, expressed the sport of football could rapidly spread the illness.

Fauci told Peter King in his “Football Morning in America” column that the NFL, for one, would have to have widespread testing for its players and that any positive test would have to keep players sidelined.

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“Sweat does not do it,” Fauci said. “This is a respiratory virus, so it’s going to be spread by shedding virus. The problem with virus shedding is that if I have it in my nasal pharynx, and it sheds and I wipe my hand against my nose—now it’s on my hand. You see, then I touch my chest or my thigh, then it’s on my chest or my thigh for at least a few hours. Sweat as such won’t transmit it. But if people are in such close contact as football players are on every single play, then that’s the perfect set up for spreading. I would think that if there is an infected football player on the field—a middle linebacker, a tackle, whoever it is it—as soon as they hit the next guy, the chances are that they will be shedding virus all over that person.

“If you really want to be in a situation where you want to be absolutely certain, you’d test all the players before the game. And you say, Those who are infected: Sorry, you’re sidelined. Those who are free: Get in there and play.”

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Fauci said he hopes that there would be an increase in the number of tests available in the coming months. NFL training camp usually starts in July and college football kicks off in August.

“If I test today, and I’m negative, you don’t know if I got exposed tomorrow,” Fauci said. “There’s no guarantee that you’re going to get exposed and be positive the next day. To give you an example, you’re probably reading in the newspapers that there’s an infection in the White House. I was exposed to that person. So I immediately got tested. I am negative. So, I’m negative yesterday. I don’t know if I’m going to be negative Monday. Understand? It’s almost an impossible situation.”

Fauci said that players would have to be tested every day to make sure they weren’t exposed to the virus.

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“But that’s not practical and that’s never going to happen. But you can diminish dramatically by testing everybody Saturday night, Sunday morning, and say OK, only negative players play,” he said.

Fauci had previously floated the idea that the sports could return without fans in the stands. He’s also said that widespread testing with quick results would help too.