Dr. Anthony Fauci says some sports in Connecticut can be held if safety protocols are followed. If not? ‘You may have to suspend it.'

As Connecticut moves forward with a plan to hold high school sports in the fall during the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that athletics can resume on a “case-by-case basis” but only with the proper precautions in place.

“It really depends on a case-by-case basis, the sport itself and what the level of infection is. From what I’m seeing of the metrics in the state of Connecticut, you’re in a good place,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on a press briefing with Gov. Ned Lamont. “But you still should abide by the recommendations, the five or six things you should adhere to. If you can do that in the context of safely doing sports, fine. If not, then you may have to suspend it.”

Fauci’s recommendations include universal mask usage, avoiding crowded places, six-foot distance, optining to be outdoors instead of indoors, and good hand hygiene. He did not speak about specific sports, however.

Fauci reiterated several times that the state “is in a good place” when it comes to coronavirus, citing several metrics, including Connecticut’s sub-one percent positivity rate.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s plan for the fall includes all sports: football, soccer, cross country, field hockey, girls swimming and girls volleyball. Teams would play fewer games than in the past, with altered protocols, less travel and a delayed season. CIAC leaders have said the plan remains “fluid” and that they will continue evaluating whether it is safe to hold a season.

Fauci noted that each sport is different.

“It depends on the sport, and it depends on what you’re taking about, vis a vis contact versus non contact,” he said. “Spectators versus non spectators. You’re talking about, you have a low level of infection. Should you have this sport, go ahead.”

While Fauci warned of a potential shutdown, his comments were not nearly as committal as Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel’s, who advised against playing football or other contact sports last Thursday at Lamont’s press conference. Like Fauci, Emanuel, an oncologist, bioethicist and vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania, was asked to speak by Gov. Lamont at his daily briefing.

“We do need to be safe and put safety No. 1, and I think contact sports are not a good idea,” said Emanuel, a senior advisor on the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group. “You can’t have a bubble in high school. You have transportation; you have a lot of things that are going to complicate having a football season. I think for one year, we’re probably going to have to take a miss on it.”

Fauci also specifically warned about crowds at sporting events, particularly those held indoors.

“If the state recommendation is you don’t want crowds, particularly indoor crowds, so should you have spectators or not?” he said. “If you do, how far apart should they be? Should they wear masks? I would recommend that they do.”

Shawn McFarland can be reached at smcfarland@courant.com.


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