Assuming the suits running college football are serious about protecting the health of college athletes when the suit up to play this fall, Dr. Fauci has some advice for them: it’s not going to be easy.
“This is a respiratory virus, so it’s going to be spread by shedding virus. The problem with virus shedding is that if I have it in my nasal pharynx, and it sheds and I wipe my hand against my nose—now it’s on my hand. You see, then I touch my chest or my thigh, then it’s on my chest or my thigh for at least a few hours. Sweat as such won’t transmit it. But if people are in such close contact as football players are on every single play, then that’s the perfect set up for spreading. I would think that if there is an infected football player on the field—a middle linebacker, a tackle, whoever it is it—as soon as they hit the next guy, the chances are that they will be shedding virus all over that person.
“If you really want to be in a situation where you want to be absolutely certain, you’d test all the players before the game. And you say, Those who are infected: Sorry, you’re sidelined. Those who are free: Get in there and play.”
That’s going to require so many tests that imagining it now would either be sheer folly or greedy on the part of a sports league. But Fauci hopes that the coming months bring increased access to tests. He’s also in modified quarantine after contact with a person who tested positive at the White House, where staffers are tested daily, showing how quickly things can change.
“If I test today, and I’m negative, you don’t know if I got exposed tomorrow,” Fauci said. “There’s no guarantee that you’re going to get exposed and be positive the next day. To give you an example, you’re probably reading in the newspapers that there’s an infection in the White House. I was exposed to that person. So I immediately got tested. I am negative. So, I’m negative yesterday. I don’t know if I’m going to be negative Monday. Understand? It’s almost an impossible situation.
“To be 100 percent sure, you’ve got to test every day. But that’s not practical and that’s never going to happen. But you can diminish dramatically by testing everybody Saturday night, Sunday morning, and say OK, only negative players play.”
Again, that doesn’t make it certain. Which makes you wonder what the reaction would be the first time a kid who played in a game contracts the virus.