Dr. Anthony Fauci on sports in a ‘bubble’: ‘There’s a way of doing that’

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AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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The Chinese Basketball Association once again pushed back the restart of its season, this time until July. At best. It’s a worrisome sign that China is struggling to create the kind of “bubble” in which to play games without fans that the NBA — and MLB, and other sports — are considering.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci thinks a sports bubble could work if the right conditions are met.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, took part in Snapchat’s interview show “Good Luck America” and said sports could be played in empty venues with teams quarantined in hotels between games and practices.

“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci said. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put them in big hotels, wherever you want to play. Keep them very well-surveilled, but have them tested like every week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their families and just let them play the season out…

“I want to see them play again,” Fauci said, referring specifically to the champion Washington Nationals.

We are all on the same page in wanting to see sports return, but the logistics of pulling off this bubble are daunting.

It starts with testing, which is ramping up nationally but is nowhere near the level it would need to reach where it wouldn’t look bad if the NBA was using thousands of tests to play sports — and these tests need to be accurate and not have a lot of false negatives. It also is going to take medical staff on site for the games, EMTs and doctors (who are at every NBA game), and is it wise to use those personnel resources that way?

It’s not only players who would need to be tested but also coaches, trainers, equipment managers, the guys who run out on the court and mop up sweat, and that’s just the basketball side. Also needing tests would be the cleaning staff at the hotel, the cooks, the security personnel, and all the support staff. Would player families be allowed in the bubble, or are you going to separate players from their families for a few months?

The more one starts to break down the logistics of the bubble, the easier it is to see why China has had difficulty building one. That nation has had a rebound in the number of cases, but experts in the United States expect the same thing here on some level once restrictions on daily life are loosened.

Still, that Fauci sees it as possible, and as we start to see testing ramp up nationally, there is reason for some optimism.