Covid Once Again Threatens Professional Sports
The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening professional sports again, with many professional leagues already reporting increased illnesses among players due to the Omicron variant spreading worldwide.
Many professional sports leagues across the United States are dealing with a COVID-19 problem, with the NHL and NBA canceling games and NFL teams trying to fill roster positions left vacant by absent players due to a recent rash of COVID-19 allegations.
Because of the multiple COVID-19 outbreaks that happened in 2020, it was thought that high vaccination rates and strict adherence to guidelines would avoid an outbreak this year. However, an outbreak did occur in 2019.
Until this week, it appeared to be in proper working order.
Only approximately 110 players were on the COVID-19 reserve list during the first 2 1/2 months of the football season, from early September to late November, which was the lowest amount in the country for the first 2 1/2 months of the season.
In contrast, as the total number of infections in the country has increased, the total number of infections in the leagues has increased.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the daily average of cases during seven days is around 117,900 cases on an average daily basis at this time. As of December, the number of infections has begun to rise again after experiencing a slight decrease at the end of November. In recent weeks, the number of infections has remained constant.
The timing couldn't be more awkward for the NFL since multiple teams are playing some of their most important games in the last weeks of the regular season, further complicating the situation.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell introduced fines for breakouts to urge players to be immunized during the off-season.
Financial penalties were imposed on both players and club owners, and teams were required to forfeit games when they did not have enough players to field a roster.
There is no indication that any games will be rescheduled due to inclement weather.
According to the NFL, roughly 95 percent of its players and nearly 100 percent of its employees had been vaccinated before the season began.
To do this, the league aims to raise its standards and will need booster vaccinations for select members of its staff and coaches who have previously been vaccinated.
The NFLPA is also in talks with league executives and its members about prospective adjustments to the league's policies, which may include daily COVID-19 testing for vaccinated players and a tweak that would enable asymptomatic players to return to the field sooner.
A handful of Chicago Bulls players have developed COVID-19, leading the NBA to postpone the team's first two games of the season, which were planned for Monday night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets have been put in isolation after participating in the NBA's coronavirus procedures on Tuesday; the league started on Wednesday.
Before returning to the league, players must sit out at least 10 days or submit to two negative drug tests within 24 hours.
The NBA recommends that all players get booster shots once a year to keep healthy. Ninety-seven percent of the league's players have been immunized. According to ESPN, 36 of the league's 51 positive tests have happened in the previous two weeks.
The NHL has postponed nine games so far this season, with the Calgary Flames suspending three games only this week due to COVID-19 (Cold and Violent Influenza Virus).
Last season, the NHL had to postpone 55 games, but all of them were finished before the season's conclusion.
According to ESPN, even though there is only one unvaccinated player in the NHL, the league will undertake heightened protections until early January to prevent the illness from spreading.
Daily testing, mandatory masks inside, and no dining out when traveling are just a few of the rules that must be observed.
The omicron variety is a developing problem, and Binney believes that all leagues should adhere to the "increased" rules, which he defines as "harsher" as a consequence.
"We don't want to be too easy on anybody, since we know that anyone, even those who have been vaccinated, might get sick... and transmit the illness to others. They may, however, get infected with the virus, even though it is less prevalent. As a result, you should be particularly cautious for the time being."