NIH Expert: Sporting events should not be played in front of crowds

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Anthony Fauci, the head of the infectious diseases division at the National Institutes of Health, testified in front of Congress today about the spread of COVID-19. In his testimony he recommended against large gatherings, including gatherings of crowds at sporting events.

When asked about the decision of the Ivy League cancelling its basketball tournament and the Mid-American Conference playing its tournament without fans on the one hand, and professional leagues like the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball still planning on putting on games to full arenas and stadiums on the other, Fauci said this:

“We would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”

As reported last night, Washington governor Jay Inslee intends to issue an order restricting gatherings of more than 250 people in three counties, including King County, where the Seattle Mariners play. That has Major League Baseball talking about moving the Mariners’ season-opening seven-game home stand to Arizona.

The Associated Press is reporting that, beyond the Mariners, Major League Baseball would prefer to switch games to the visiting team’s stadium or to a neutral site if a given ballgame is scheduled in an area affected by the outbreak. Given the speed and scope of the spread of COVID-19, however, that may not be tenable.

Officially, Major League Baseball has made no comment about any of this since it’s press release on Monday announcing that the media would no longer have access to team clubhouses.