Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said in an interview Tuesday that professional sports may need to stay on hold for the rest of the year if the safety of players and fans cannot be assured.
Fauci said the key to bringing the nation's sports industry out of lockdown is widespread COVID-19 testing that delivers quick results, and warned that pushing to reopen too soon would "only get ourselves right back in the same hole we were in a few weeks ago."
"I would love to be able to have all sports back," he added. "But as a health official, and a physician, and a scientist, I have to say, right now, when you look at the country, we're not ready for that yet."
Fauci said part of a gradual and measured approach to resuming sports could involve a phase in which players compete in empty stadiums in front of cameras, while socially-distanced fans tune in from afar.
"And then test all the players and make sure they're negative and keep them in a place where they don't have contact with anybody on the outside who you don't know whether they're positive or negative," Fauci added.
Fauci's remarks in the interview echo earlier statements he made when discussing progress in efforts to mitigate the impact of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Speaking at a White House briefing on April 22, Fauci said that expectations of a "really bad week" in virus deaths were largely foiled by mitigation and containment strategies.
"We were starting to see some turnaround, some flattening, and some coming down," he said of infection and death counts nationwide, attributing the progress to a "successful formula."
"So what has happened is that the mitigation that we put in with the first 15 days and then the 30-day mitigation program of physical distancing worked," he said. "So it got us to where we are today. It is a successful formula. It is the basis for our being able to say that we can now think seriously about reopening America."
"There are certain checkpoints before you can even think about going into a phase one, and then things relax a little as you go into phase two, and relax a little and you go into phase three," he said, speaking of conditions outlined in the administration's plan for a phased approach to reopening.
"Although I know one has the need to leapfrog over things, don't do that. Do it in a measured way. This is a successful formula. The problem is if we don't do that, there is a likelihood that we'll have a rebound," Fauci said.
Speaking at a White House briefing on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said: "As our nation battles against this terrible scourge, we continue to pray for the victims, as well as for those Americans who are grieving their lost ones and their loved ones," Trump said.
"We suffer with one heart, but we will prevail," the president added.
"We’re coming back and we’re coming back strong."