Fauci spoke to the Washington Post this week about the return of baseball and his well-being with fans in the stands, despite coronavirus infection rates rising in recent days and some government officials beginning to prepare for a possible fourth wave of the pandemic. (Questions have been processed for brevity and clarity.)
Q: During the regular season last year, fans weren’t allowed to play baseball, but a lot has changed since then. Do you feel comfortable with viewers who are personally participating in games?
A: I think that what we will see as the season progresses and as more people get vaccinated and the level of infection in the community drops, there will be more flexibility to bring more and more people to the ballpark community. Hopefully by the time we get into the full swing of the season there will be a lot more people who could be comfortable in the ballpark. I mean, of course, there will still be the masking requirement. There will still be seats.
One of the things we do in our favor is we vaccinate every day in this country, nearly 3 million people a day. And the more people who are vaccinated, the less likely you are to have a problem. Now, of course, we are still concerned that the infection rate in the country is still quite high. It’s still on a plateau between 55 and 65,000 new infections per day, which is pretty high.
However, if we continue to implement the public health measures we are constantly talking about – wearing masks, avoiding meeting places, especially indoors, washing hands – and if more and more people are vaccinated, I think that will happen is more and more flexibility and greater presence in places like [Nationals Park].
Q: At the beginning, the Washington Nationals are one of the teams that only a few thousand people are allowed to participate in.
A: Whatever you start, I think it just keeps getting better as we get into the season. And then hopefully at the beginning of the season we’ll even have a lot of flexibility and more and more people.
Q: A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 2 in 3 Americans say they enjoy attending an outdoor event such as baseball, but less than half say they enjoy attending an indoor event how to participate in basketball. Is it safe to assume that these concerns are justified?
A: There is a big difference between inside and outside. We know this from experience when you are in a place like [Nationals Park]Especially if you are well spaced, sit and wear a mask, the likelihood of the infection spreading is extremely low. The outside area is clearly far safer than inside due to the air circulation inside. While outdoors, you know, there is dilution with the entire environment, the risk is so much less outdoors [setting]. That’s why I like stadiums [Nationals Park]If you keep a reasonable, prudent distance from people, the risk is very low.
Q: In the survey, 64 percent of respondents said they would be comfortable if everyone had to wear a mask. Do you think masks should be seen as mandatory by far in the stands, even at outdoor events?
Q: Baseball stadiums will have a wide range of visitor capacity – from 12 to 100 percent, many closer to 20 to 25 percent. Is there a magic number?
A: It’s nice to think that we have some math precision to figure out what the correct number is, but it’s just not true. It really depends very much on the level of infection in the community where the ballpark is located. They assume that the vast majority of the people who will show up at the stadium will be from the area where the stadium is located.
Estimating what percentage of capacity you will have is likely to be influenced by the level of base infection in the community area and geographic area of the ballpark.
Q: It is obvious that the base number will be different everywhere, so we will see different attendance limits throughout the season. But one team opens the season 100 percent. What do you think about?
Q: The Texas Rangers in Arlington.
One really? That is interesting. I don’t want to be critical of this, but that’s – I wouldn’t start with 100 percent capacity. But Texas has always been a little bit more – what’s the right word? – daring when it comes to the kind of thing they want to do about this outbreak.
Q: On the other end of the spectrum, the New York Yankees and New York Mets require proof of full vaccination or negative coronavirus test for every ticket holder. Should that be compulsory?
A: I don’t really want to pass judgment because then I’m going to compete against entire organizations. I mean everyone has their own way of doing things. One option is to request a negative test or proof of vaccination. I’m not saying this is a bad idea, but it will vary. As you said, some stadiums allow 100 percent capacity. Some want to start with 10 to 20 percent capacity. And because everyone does things independently, you will have a variety of needs that people will have. And one of them could be a negative test and proof of vaccination.
Q: You mentioned the importance of keeping people at a distance. Many teams only offer cashless transactions at concession stands. Does that feel necessary to you?
A: It’s a creative way. Any way you can reduce personal interaction with someone who is not part of your own family would, in my opinion, be a step towards greater safety. Anything creative, including – because we know that people who go to the concession booths are around and there the risk increases. Anything that can minimize the risk in this environment would be positive in my opinion.
Q: The baseball season is obviously long. How do you see the stadium restrictions evolving in the coming months?
A: I hope we will vaccinate more people in late spring, early summer. Up to 3 million people are vaccinated every day in this country. The more people vaccinated, the safer it is for everyone. I would hope that in late spring and early summer you will have a lot more flexibility for the people in the stands.
Q: The NBA and NHL playoffs will start before summer – May and June. Is it possible that it is safer to attend in person?
A: It will really depend on the level of infection in the community. That really is the deciding factor. If the number of infections goes down as more people are vaccinated, there may be more flexibility indoors.
Q: what about you? We’ve all heard of your affinity for the sport – are you going to be attending a baseball game anytime soon?
A: My life was just completely shaped by the response to this outbreak, but if you ask me what the only thing I can’t wait for is to go [Nationals Park] and watch the team.
Q: You were there last year. Are you looking forward to a do-over in first place?
A: I don’t know. But I’ll definitely put down roots for her, that’s for sure.
Q: So no first pitch plans?