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Widespread testing must be available before NFL season can begin

Dr. Allen Sills hopes things go on as planned, but that’s not the only outcome

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Dr. Allen Sills is the Chief Medical Officer for the NFL. He’s in charge of the league’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and recently stated his thoughts on what would need to happen between now and the start of the regular season in order for this year’s NFL season to go on a planned. To Sills, the biggest aspect needs to be the widespread availability of quick-result testing. In other words, tests to need to be ready and abundant everywhere for use at a moment’s notice.

In regards to the season being expected to start on time, Sills mentioned that “the reality is none of us know those facts for certain right now.”

“We hope and pray for the best and prepare for the worst, realizing that is one potential outcome that we will be back fully in business playing games as normal in front of fans on schedule. But it’s certainly not the only outcome.”

Sills is correct. While the season getting started right on time would be the most-preferred outcome, there’s a likely an even higher chance of that not happening to be fair. We aren’t even through the worst part, or the “peak,” of the curve yet. As long as all the numbers keep climbing, I don’t think we can commit to anything past where we are now.

Unlike the MLB or the NBA, I don’t think playing NFL games without fans is an option. It’s just a different environment. There are so many games played in the NBA and MLB that they can’t all be sell-outs, especially those on weeknights. When it comes to the NFL, the stadiums are always packed, even it’s mostly the opposing team filling the seats. And let’s be honest, I simply cannot fathom watching a NFL on television that is quieter than the recent string of Chargers home games.

Sills put it plainly, “As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport.”

“Because we’re going to have positive cases for a very long time.”

It’s this last part that makes me feel very uneasy about the future of the NFL this season. I don’t see how we can just jump right back into how things were as long as there is a single hint of potential that the virus could start making its’ rounds again. If anything, I think this whole decision is going to come down all the way to the wire.