Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci gave a wide-ranging interview to Yahoo Sports in which he speculated on how quickly the sports world might expect to return to normal with promising news of COVID-19 vaccines making headlines.
Fauci threw some cold water on the idea of a quick return, telling Yahoo Sports that full-capacity stadiums are likely to be “the last thing that you’re gonna see.”
Fauci suggested that how quickly effective vaccines can be distributed will be an important factor in the timeline.
“We're gonna be vaccinating the highest-priority people [from] the end of December through January, February, March,” Fauci told Yahoo Sports. “By the time you get to the general public, the people who'll be going to the basketball games, who don't have any underlying conditions, that's gonna be starting the end of April, May, June. ... I don't think we're going to be that normal in July. I think it probably would be by the end of the summer.”
Fauci, the country’s top expert on the pandemic, also said that the return to normal will likely depend on, among other things, the public’s willingness to get vaccinated in the first place.
“We could get there by the end of the summer, and as we get into the fall of next year,” Fauci said, adding “if 50% of the people say, ‘You know, I don't want to get vaccinated,’ then it's gonna take considerably longer than that.”
Different sports organizations could make their own rules regarding attendance, but those rules would also need to adhere to whichever guidelines are adopted locally and at the state level. As Yahoo points out, there are no state-level restrictions on capacity in Florida, for instance, but the NFL teams in the state have all chosen to significantly limit capacity. Meanwhile, California won’t even allow the 49ers to play at Levi’s Stadium.
That means that the return to normal in sports is likely to be a gradual one.
“It's not like we're gonna turn off the light, and the virus is gone, and the world can go back,” Dr. Tom Farley, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, told Yahoo Sports. “It's going to have a very long tail to it.”