Dan Mullen was smacked upside the headset this week by COVID-19. Nineteen of his players tested positive the same week Florida’s coach advocated for his administration to allow fans to “pack The Swamp” this week against LSU to foster a “competitive advantage.” Never mind a packed stadium being antithetical to those players’ health — at least for now and probably for a while.
Despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recent decree that stadiums can be filled to capacity, University of Florida officials have said they will continue to adhere to safety guidelines. College and professional teams across the state have as well. Mullen will have to find his competitive advantage elsewhere during a global pandemic.
Meanwhile, multiple medical professionals reached by CBS Sports say there indeed a long way to go before we’re sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in full stadiums again.
“I think we should assume that we’re going to be exactly where we are today 11 months from now, until proven otherwise,” said Dr. Michael Saag, UAB professor of medicine and infectious diseases.
Saag is referring to the beginning of the 2021 season, which is 10 ½ months away. Even with a COVID-19 vaccine, these medical professionals say an assumption that this is a one-and-done year for coronavirus inconvenience is misguided.
“The short answer is: Once a vaccine is developed and mass-administered, maybe next [football] season,” said Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University. “But that depends a lot on the competence of and logistics of a national vaccination itself.”
That is a huge undertaking, according to Dr. John Ervin, who is overseeing some of the nation’s most important COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials at the Center for Pharmaceutical Research in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Until we get a proven vaccine that works, it may be that this [coronavirus] is going to mutate,” Ervin said. “We may have to change to a different vaccine. I think we’re waiting until easily next year until we get on top of this. And then it really has to do with the acceptance of vaccinations. I pray to God that the anti-vaxxers [don’t grow].”
Ervin added that, in a best-case scenario, stadiums will be at capacity next fall. A vaccine could be ready by next year, but there are multiple issues at hand. In order to get back to filling stadiums, the vaccine needs to be widely distributed, and it needs to be determined not only who to let in to those stadiums but how.
Ervin pointed out that team may want to identify who has been vaccinated before admitting them into a stadium. If not, what’s the point stamping out COVID-19? A February soccer match in Italy has already been linked to being the event that spread the virus throughout the country.
“We don’t need more evidence to know [filling stadiums] is a bad idea,” Binney said. “And anyone who says, ‘But they’ll wearing masks,’ I’d encourage you to look at crowd shots of any SEC game this year. Take a deep breath and try saying [that]