Will Live Sports Ever Be The Same Because of COVID-19?

Image via JHU. Data is updated once per day to allow the system to pull county-level data. For the most up-to-date confirmed cases and deaths, please see the COVID-19 Global Map. New York City borough deaths data does not include Probable COVID-19 deaths, as this data is not reported.
 Visit the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center where their experts help to advance understanding of the virus, inform the public, and brief policymakers in order to guide a response, improve care, and save lives.

Live sports have changed because of coronavirus and may never be the same again, right? No one truly knows the answer as to COVID-19 best practices since this is a new pandemic. The NBA is not about to let this tiny, nasty virus stop it from committing to a limited rest of the season schedule played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports facilities in Orlando with no fans present. The MLS and MLSPA just signed a new CBA and it looks like their limited soccer season or tournament will be a reality. MLB is negotiating to play a shortened season but talks are at a standstill because of money, not so much the virus. The real answers about the return of live sports depends on several factors and for many, money is the number one reason to consider because of the economy, unemployment and paying bills, not the world of online casinos in India. The Sports Techie community blog is a strong advocate for listening to medical experts and science when making decisions for the greater good. Trusting a Presidential hunch about the virus or treatment medication is dangerous, believing the disease is part of a Bill Gates conspiracy theory is down right silly, or thinking the end of the world hysteria is for you is content other bloggers can cover, not this one. Instead, when medical and scientific experts told humans it was dangerous to smoke, be in the sun unprotected and not wear seatbelts, it made logical sense and now most all people worldwide agree on the reasoning behind these necessary and fundamental changes in society. COVID-19 is the next sea of change our global communities are dealing with in the short term and perhaps even long term if a vaccination fails to stop mutating respiratory droplets from spreading to the masses killing already more than 100,000 people in the United States alone since March, 2020, while fast approaching 400,000 dead around the world. Live sporting events took a hiatus when the Utah Jazz had two positive players causing league decision makers to shut down operations immediately no matter the financial costs. The newest X factor in America are the continued protests in the name of Black Lives Matter because of consistent police brutality towards African-Americans culminating in the tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota by Derek Chauvin last week. The problem is large groups of people can cause outbreaks so time will tell if we see the curve spike back up in cities and states that hosted these mostly peaceful mass gatherings. Slowly, countries, states and businesses have all begun the process of reopening during the warmer summer months which factors into the question as to whether live sports will ever be the same again, especially when the seasons change causing people to head indoors when flu season comes into play mixed with coronavirus. The COVID-19 dashboard operated by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering has been the expert source of constantly updated tracking data of the spread of coronavirus. Are sports leagues going to track each and every participant should they reopen for live sports business?

COVID-19 World Cases Dashboard Via John Hopkins University CSSE

Is a Live Sports Comeback Too Soon?

Yes, cases of death have gone down in some areas around the world, or have they? Whether because of nation or state stay-at-home restrictions, social distancing practices and business shutdowns, it appears the virus has slowed down in China where it originated from, and in Italy and Spain where government officials were slow to act. Yet the United States, England and Brazil are not showing the same rate of decline perhaps because like Sweden, social distancing measures were at first not taken seriously, then were implemented late leading to the next predictable outcome, the next wave of the virus because we are reopening much too fast and in the wrong ways such as mass gatherings at the beach or by protesting without regards to social distancing, may be as deadly or more so than the first.

John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health launched a new COVID-19 U.S. map to help decision making across America. It was created by the School of Engineering to allow public access to pandemic data, analytics and reporting at a county level. Ever county renders resulting in constantly updated rankings from a local view in near real-time. Toggle between confirmed cases by population, total death counts for each county, and fatality rates otherwise known as death rates. Clicking on a thumbnail gives you a local dashboard. The COVID-19 graph indicates case increases, decreases, and no change per state.

What is disturbing is the notion that federal guidelines advising state governors to reopen with phases after cases have gone down over a 14-day period has not been followed be all states. The Feds also say new cases could emerge and remain at high levels if social distancing is lifted before a safe period of time.

Tom Inglesby, MD Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is concerned about large gatherings causing a resurgence of cases, and so am I.

Super Spreaders

Herein lies the problem with live sports in stadiums, arenas and ballparks. Super spreaders are what the Jazz players were labeled when they put the entire league and fans at risk. Putting groups of people over 6 or 10 together depending on where you live is considered a potential COVID-19 breakout waiting to happen. In South Korea, a 61-year old woman attended church services and went to a number of other public places causing the cases to jump from 29 to 2,900 in two weeks’ time. That all said, what is going to prevent professional athletes from being super-spreaders once again?

Contact Tracing

Granted, the leagues are promising to test each player, coach, trainer and ref, as well as all the TV production operators, but the UFC did the same during their first pay-per-view and one of the best MMA fighters and his two cornermen tested positive in Orlando. Dana White was given much credit for his testing procedures but the real problem is not testing anymore. President Trump was obviously late to the testing party and laughably in a sad way is now proudly stating the US has tested more people than any other country when we by far led the world’s nations in deaths, second place is not even close. No, the real issue now that testing as was done is China and Korea for their citizens and was not done here in America, is whether tracing or tracking those that test positive is implemented.

If one Korean lady was the root cause for all those infections and we now know most cases are coming from asymptomatic people showing little to no signs of the virus, imagine what the best athletes in the world would do as super-spreaders. The UFC revealed no information as too how they tracked the three positive individuals who stayed in the same hotel and trained at the same facility as all the other people involved in the live sports event.

Contact tracing or case investigation makes logical sense. Yet, there are conspiracy theorists and suspicion of this real need to help slow the pandemic which has led to threats to public health officials. Now I am pretty sure professional athletes will not be threatening case investigators should they test positive to find out who they have been in contact with but the issue for me is this need is not part of the plans laid out by the NBA, MLS, NHL and MLB. I wrote a blog about NASCAR coming back and there was nothing spoken about contact tracing when each live racing event may have in upwards of 1,000 potential, asymptomatic super-spreaders going back to their communities putting the general public at risk, just like the Black Lives Matter protesters, many that did not wear masks and certainly did not follow social distancing best practices, are doing.

For more resources on COVID-19, please visit jhsph.edu/covid-19 

Sports Techie, summer begins June 20 and it is starting to feel like COVID-19 was just a dream, not a nightmare as it was and is for the many dead and sick like no other disease in human history,

Will professional sports learn from what WHO, the CDC, and other credible medical and scientific experts at say John Hopkins University for example, are saying about reopening too soon and too fast?

The money is on NO, they will not because businesses such as MLB stands to lose $4 billion should they not have a baseball season and the owners will risk public health to make they don’t bleed cash. The NFL and college football are slated to begin play when the weather changes in the fall and the next wave of COVID-19 potentially hits the nation. What does logic tell you about that?

My biggest concern is the lack of contact tracing for super-spreader and asymptomatic, professional and amateur athletes alike. Will this need ever be part of the reopening plan by sports organizations?

Again, the short term and safe bet is a big NO.

Live sports is forever changed, let’s hope it is not for the long term.

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