When will fans be let back into stadiums? Is it safe to reopen leagues? And will the sporting landscape be changed forever?
Realistically, when do you think sports will return?
Dr Nate Favini, medical lead at Forward healthcare services: It all comes down to testing. If you have rapid and highly accurate tests, and you have the ability to do enough of them, so you can test people often and quickly, thats basically the threshold you need to meet to reopen sports. Imagine if you could test every NBA player every day and exclude anyone who tests positive and let players play in empty stadiums, you could restart today. But you have to have testing available at that scale. It will probably be eight months until we have that.
Dr Douglas J Wiebe, professor of epidemiology, The University of Pennsylvanias Perelman School of Medicine: Thats a tough one. Not yet. Having testing available will make us all feel better. If [a player tests positive for Covid-19] we clearly have to isolate them and provide them medical care. The other kind of testing will be testing for antibodies, to identify [whether] an athlete been infected in the past. And if they have the antibody that should be a marker that they are now able to fight off new instances of the virus.
Dr Geoff M Dreher, Johns Hopkins University, expert in sports medicine: Its difficult to put a timetable on a return. We want to make sure players and staff are safe and make sure if they do get sick or otherwise injured, that there are pathways for safe care without wasting any resources for the general population. When those measures are met, sports should make their comeback.
Dr Will Bulsiewicz, author of Fiber Fueled: It depends. I could see non-contact sports like golf come back very quickly. It becomes a lot more difficult for contact sports. Basketball is designed for the infection, and NFL is the same, theyre climbing all over each other. I would love to see football this fall, what I worry about is not so much if you can test before gameday but that these players have to practice with each other all week. It will be very hard to test players every single day before practice. Thats what makes it hard for football.
Will the Tokyo Olympics be safe to stage next July?
Favini: If we have a wide-scale vaccine rollout strategy by next summer, I think its possible to get to enough immunity to hold the Olympics. Looking at how things are unfolding, by next summer we will still be in an environment where even though we may open day-to-day society, we still may not be in a place to open a big global event for people from all over the world to be in one space. I think we may end up having the Olympics postponed again.
Wiebe: Based on where we are now, I think its going to be quite some time before were in a position to be confident about interacting together in sporting venues, including the Olympics. We arent even out of the woods yet on what may be the first wave of Covid infections in the US. People can plan for the future, but Im not confident the Olympics can happen [in 2021]. I think it will be very hard to have a large sporting event and have fans be a part of it in person.
Dreher: [Holding the Olympics] in July 2021, may be difficult, especially with vaccine developments taking from 12 to 18 months or longer. So to plan for hundreds of thousands of people to converge on a few locations at the Games will be difficult in that timeframe.
Bulsiewicz: I would call it [the Olympics] 50-50. The Olympics are such an international event: how do you control people flying in from around the world? I cant imagine them having an Olympics without a crowd. I can see where they can stage the competition without crowds, but then youre undercutting the entire economic element of the Olympics where they spend billions of dollars building stadiums and expecting people to show up.