What a Second Wave of COVID-19 Means for Professional Sports

Rumblings of increases in infections started to fuel suspicions that a second wave of COVID-19 is inevitable. These fears have manifested into a volatile market, in some of the worst days since March. The paranoia of Quarantine, Part II, is real.

While the MLB’s owners are squabbling over revenue percentages with the players, some leagues have set out to determine how the rest of their season will look in 2020. Some abroad have returned to play (see Bundesliga, Premier League), as others have formed concrete plans (see NBA, MLS).

At the time of conception for these return to play plans, government-mandated quarantines were still in effect. The infection rates were low because the general public had been in quarantine longer than the gestation period for the virus. Since lifting many of these restrictions, the recent return to normal life has clouded judgement.

There was general agreement against cancelling the entire season after being stuck at home for months— this was an easy choice for many fans wishing to see sports back. Today, we are approaching the two week mark from the date that many states reopened. We will get a better picture of this developing scenario in a few days, but there is a direct correlation between the reopening process and the spread of the virus, when compared to the declining rates when we were quarantined.

The virus never went away, we just did.

This paints a grim picture for the return of sports… Travel will be an issue. Being away from families will be an issue. Contact with teammates will be an issue. There is no vaccine, and we don’t have herd immunity yet. Declining infection rates should not have justified the resumption of play when there was some recency bias involved. The timeframe from when these plans were made to when the government mandated quarantine mostly ended, was shorter than the gestation period of the virus. On the backend, experts are recommending that sports should not be played past October.

The time to act on any plan for a return has passed, and I fear that we will have this stop-and-go economy until the discovery of a vaccine. Another wave of COVID-19 is at our doorstep, and an uptick is on the horizon. Sports will suffer from this, and they will face the similar ramifications as they did in the Spring of 2020.

For the reasons mentioned, the resurge in cases is a daunting hurdle for all of professional sports.

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