COVID-19 Roundup: There’s Still a Pandemic Going On

This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.

Dr. Fauci Skeptical About NFL Season

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended that MLB try to avoid playing games in October, and his scheduling suggestions didn’t stop at baseball. Yesterday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that if the NFL wants to have a 2020 season, they’ll need do so in a heavily quarantined environment, similar to that of the NBA at DisneyWorld.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci said. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

In a rare bit of good fortune for baseball relative to other sports, the game features very few plays that require much in the way of close contact and it’s downright rare for more than two players to be next to each other on a single play. That’s not a luxury football has, with offensive and defensive linemen huddled together and many, many plays ending with one player tackling another. This is the opposite of social distancing. It’s not without cause that Dr. Fauci previously called the NFL the “perfect setup” to spread the virus.

Fauci’s words aren’t necessarily falling on deaf ears either; anonymous NFL coaches told ESPN’s Ed Werder about their pandemic concerns, running the gamut from it being scary to wondering if it was smart to even play football while COVID-19 rages.

LA Rams head coach Sean McVay has gone even further, publicly expressing concern about the NFL’s plans.

“There’s such an influx of information that is ever changing. It is a little bit mind-numbing when you get down to it,” said McVay on the topic. “It’s figuring out what is going to be the best way to operate and having the agility to adjust. Is this crazy coach Lynn? we’re talking about some of this stuff and we’re playing football. We’re going to social distance but we play football? This is hard for me to understand this. I don’t get it, I really don’t.”

While the images of an NFL-style COVID helmet appear to be fake, the league is pursuing modified face guards.

Inside the NBA’s Plans

If you want more detail on how the NBA plans to protects its players and staff, The Athletic obtained a health and safety manual running down the measures the sport will take. The memo touches on some of the economics agreed to, but specifically outlines what a quarantine will mean for players. Here’s one example, from Phase 4, scheduled to be implemented in mid-July.

– At all times on the court, players must avoid spitting or clearing their nose, wiping the ball with their jersey, licking their hands, and unnecessarily touching their mouthguard.

– After the initial self-isolation through July 21, players may eat meals and participate in social activities (ping-pong, golf, video games, card games, etc.) only with individuals residing within their hotel, provided that they maintain physical distancing.

One of the more interesting tidbits mentions the Oura ring that players will have the option of wearing. These smart rings allegedly can predict COVID-19 symptoms up to three days in advanced with 90% accuracy.

The cynic in me wonders why these Oura rings haven’t been purchased by hospitals to protect their workers — I asked my medical professional sister and she had not even heard of these — but if they work as advertised, they could greatly increase the chances that the NBA can contain a mini-outbreak during the Disney experiment. The cynic in me also wonders if three months from now, NBA players wearing the ring will start to see Google ads suggesting products based on medical conditions tracked by the ring. But maybe I’m a touch too cynical!

The NBA’s hotline to report violations — COVID-19 violations, please don’t call to report James Harden traveling — is likely to have mixed results and mixed reactions; Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has called it the “snitch hotline.”

Albert Lends a Hands to Struggling Staffers

Remember when the Los Angeles Angels, one of the teams that has been the most aggressive about cost-cutting during the pandemic, furloughed non-player personnel? Well, Albert Pujols has their backs even if their employer doesn’t.

Pujols, whose contract expires after the 2021 season, has agreed to donate $180,000 to help employees at the team’s Boca Chica facility, which was particularly hard-hit by the cuts; the Los Angeles Times reports that close to 90% of employees there temporarily lost wages. The $180,000 will make up the lost salaries of the Dominican Republic-based staff for five months.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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Cave Dameron
2 years ago

Thank you Dan, very cool!