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Fauci cautions MLB against extending season into October amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Like many things during the COVID-19 pandemic, life has seemingly come to a halt; and sports are no exception.

The Major League Baseball Players Association’s action might lead to a season of about 50 games rather than the 82 initially proposed by MLB.

Players hoped to play through until at least November, but owners believe the already-shortened season should only go on until October.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the major leagues would be wise to wrap up the postseason in September, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“If the question is time, I would try to keep it in the core summer months and end it not with the way we play the World Series, until the end of October when it’s cold,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a telephone interview with the LA Times on Tuesday. “I would avoid that.”

“The proliferation of COVID-19 outbreaks around the country over the last week, and the fact that we already know of several 40-man roster players and staff who have tested positive, has increased the risks associated with commencing spring training in the next few weeks,” Deputy MLB Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to players' association chief negotiator Bruce Meyer.

Nonetheless, Fauci said, playing in July likely would be less risky than playing in October.

“Even in warm weather, like in Arizona and California, we’re starting to see resurgences as we open up,” Fauci said. “But I think the chances of there being less of an issue in the end of July and all of August and September are much, much better than if you go into October.”

MLB told the union it would lose an additional $640,000 for each regular-season game played with no gate revenue and does not want to extend the regular season past Sept. 27 because it fears a second wave of the coronavirus could endanger the postseason, when $787 million of broadcast revenue is earned.

In the United States, deaths from the novel coronavirus are projected to rise steadily in July and August, then sharply through September, according to projections Monday from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

The best he can do, Fauci said, is to say that October baseball is probably not the best of ideas this year.

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“I’d have to underscore probably,” Fauci told the LA Times. “This virus is one that keeps fooling us. Under most circumstances — but we don’t know for sure here — viruses do better when the weather starts to get colder and people start spending more time inside, as opposed to outside. The community has a greater chance of getting infected.”

“The likelihood is that, if you stick to the core summer months, you are better off, even though there is no guarantee… If you look at the kinds of things that could happen, there’s no guarantee of anything. You would want to do it at a time when there isn’t the overlap between influenza and the possibility of a fall second wave.”

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Halem suggested to the union’s chief negotiator that players could potentially be quarantined in league-approved hotels in hopes of putting him at ease about returning to baseball.

“I note that both the NBA and NHL, two leagues which you repeatedly reference in your letter, do not intend to resume play until about Aug. 1, and both intend to resume play at a limited number of sites with a quarantine approach,” Halem wrote. “Please let us know the association’s views on quarantining players in league-approved hotels (like the NBA’s Disney World model) when they are not at the ballpark if conditions worsen over the next few weeks.”

A bubble is not mandatory, Fauci said. But, in the absence of one, he said player health could be dependent on how well players and their families keep to themselves when they can practice social distancing and wear masks when they cannot.

“In Washington, D.C., the cases are going down, but we’re not finished with the outbreak yet,” he said, “That’s the reason why, when I’m on the outside, I always wear a mask. I avoid crowds.”

Cases are rising in nearly half the states in the U.S., according to an Associated Press analysis, a worrying trend that could intensify as people return to work and venture out during the summer.

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More than 8 million people around the world had been sickened by COVID-19 as of June 16, according to the data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Chinese authorities locked down a third neighborhood in Beijing as they rushed to prevent the spread of another outbreak, which has infected more than 100 people.China reported 40 more coronavirus infections nationwide through the end of June 15, including 27 in Beijing, bringing the total to 106 in the nation’s capital since June 11. The resurgence in China has highlighted public health experts’ calls for vigilance as many nations move forward with easing virus restrictions to revive their economies.

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New Zealand, which hadn’t seen a new case in three weeks, said it is investigating a case in which two women who flew in from London to see a dying parent were allowed to leave quarantine and drive halfway across the country before they were tested and found to be positive. And the Philippines reimposed a strict lockdown on the city of Cebu after a rise in cases.

In the U.S., several states have reported sharp rises in infections, which could intensify as people return to work and venture out during the summer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.