COVID-19 and Sports Update: World Baseball Classic Cancelled, Need for Testing in Football, More

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COVID-19 and Sports Update: World Baseball Classic Cancelled, Need for Testing in Football, More

Chicago Cubs

If you are able to manage a pandemic reading today, I highly recommend this piece in The Atlantic from epidemiological expert, Julia Marcus. Among the problems we face: because the harms of a prolonged (and uncertain) lockdown are real, and because many humans will engage in risky behavior no matter what, how do we go about helping people understand and adjust to risk levels as things open back up?

Staying locked down until a vaccine is not realistic or necessarily advisable when you consider the entire scope of health issues. But opening back up into a free-for-all is also absolutely not a good idea. So in that in between, there’s a lot of room for people to operate differently – and to shame each other for how we are operating. Turns out, data shows that kind of “shaming” not only doesn’t work, it can actually cause more harm than good. Thus, you need to get out in front of the messaging, clearly indicating for people what are higher-risk activities, what are lower-risk activities, what can be done to help reduce the risk of transmission despite engaging in higher-risk activities, etc.

Unfortunately, we’re in the midst of opening back up, and we’re still not getting clear messaging based on science. I go to Kroger and I still see half the people there are not in masks (science indicates this is not a reasonable choice). Yet The Wife goes on a jog outside away from people and gets yelled at for not wearing a mask (science indicates this is a reasonable choice). People need CLEAR directives on risks, levels of risk, context for risk, mitigation of risk, and so on. You’re taking a bunch of socialization-starved people and throwing them out into a room together and saying, “But, you know, be safe or something.” BE SPECIFIC.

No World Baseball Classic in the Spring

Bad news about the World Baseball Classic, which had been set for early next year:

Although the WBC wasn’t set to begin until next March in the US, Japan, and Taiwan, qualifiers had been ongoing, travel was going to be massive, and logistics would be near impossible unless everything is totally back to normal by January (which, sadly, we know is not going to be the case). 

As a once-every-four-years event, I very much hope the WBC is simply rescheduled for the following year, rather than entirely foreclosed until the next turn in 2025. If the 2017 edition was any indicator, people were really getting into the idea of the tournament, which was exceptionally fun that year.

Meanwhile, baseball is still on the schedule for the postponed Olympics, so next summer might be the next time we see international baseball. Even then, the U.S. team will not include big league players (the only big leaguers eligible will be guys on the 40-man, but who are not a realistic threat to be called up during the summer).

Updating as I type:

Better than waiting four years, I guess. 

Viral Spread in Football

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about football being an unfortunately perfectly bad sport for the purposes of spreading the virus, given the constant human-on-human impact that occurs throughout a game. Given that reality, and given that a vaccine will not be in place by this fall, the only way you can safely play football – even in the absence of fans – is near-daily testing, according to Fauci.

You test guys as often as possible – ideally daily, if testing availability permitted it – and anyone who tests positive is out, immediately. That’s likely to be the philosophy in all sports for the foreseeable future, so, again, the need for huge volumes of rapid testing is urgent. That’s true anyway, but particularly if you want to be able to have a relative luxury like sports. 

Green Light in England

Although the Premier League still has to chart its course to a return, the UK government has laid out its reopening plans, which will permit major sporting events – behind closed doors, made for TV – beginning June 1.

Again, that’s no guarantee the league will actually begin then, but it’s a notable timing benchmark for a country whose response to, and effectiveness against, the COVID-19 pandemic has been unfortunately similar to that of the United States. 

Canadian Football League in Dire Straights

Things were already challenging for the venerable old CFL (the league, in its first pro incarnation, goes back more than 70 years), but the pandemic might be a death blow to the sport as it exists today. 

Speaking to the House of Commons this past week, Commissioner Randy Ambrosie testified that the league lost $20 million last year, conceded that cancelling the upcoming season is likely, and the future existence of the league is “very much in jeopardy.” The league is essentially scrambling to get $150 million in funds from the government – either a loan or some other business arrangement(?) – to keep itself afloat through the pandemic.

South Korea Trying to Contain New Outbreaks

In theory, once you get to the testing-and-tracing level of pandemic response, this is what it should look like: 

That is to say, the fact that this has happened in South Korea is not necessarily a reason to freak out – it was always going to happen. It’ll happen here. The idea is that when you get a spot like this, you’re able to trace all contacts, and then isolate those persons so that the outbreak does not spread. The country has seen infections top 30 people the last two days, which doesn’t sound like much, but is far higher than it’s been for a long time, and if you don’t contain the spread, 30 people can become 30,000 in an extremely short time – COVID-19 is believed to be that contagious.

I mention this not only because it has implications for the continued play of baseball in the KBO, but also because you’re looking at the model in action for what the US is hoping to be able to do … eventually? That’s the concerning part. We are not even remotely close to this level of testing and tracing ability, so when there’s a big pocket outbreak somewhere – and there will be – I have no idea how we would contain it quickly.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.