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Key #Covid19 thinker: "larger gatherings," including sporting events, won't return until fall 2021 at best

Restarting America Means People Will Die. So When Do We Do It?, the New York Times Magazine offers today, with a roundtable among five thinkers who "weigh moral choices in a crisis."

For sports fans, the key warning quote comes from Zeke Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives and director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania; host of a new podcast about coronavirus, “Making the Call”; and author of the forthcoming book “Which Country Has the World’s Best Health Care?” He's an advisor to the presidential campaign of Democrat Joe Biden.

Asked by moderator Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, about the trade-offs regarding "beginning to partly reopen in June," Emanuel said he wasn't "wildly optimistic," given the lack of a "consistent shelter-in-place policy nationally," a standard policy of "wearing masks outside," or an "infrastructure for testing in real time."

He suggested that certain work sites, where social distancing was more possible, would return first:
 Certain kinds of construction, or manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain six-foot distances are more reasonable to start sooner. Larger gatherings — conferences, concerts, sporting events — when people say they’re going to reschedule this conference or graduation event for October 2020, I have no idea how they think that’s a plausible possibility. I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we’re talking fall 2021 at the earliest.
(Emphasis added)

Fall 2021 represents the current best estimate for a vaccine. Now, that doesn't mean that major league sports can't return, given proposed plans to--wow--play games without an audience, thus generating TV revenues and a TV audience. But it does suggest that even the notion of leaving seats open wouldn't generate enough safety.

Emanuel's forecast shouldn't be seen as definitive--and it's definitely generated pushback from Republicans and others who think it's has partisan resonance. But he is one of the major thinkers on the issue.

(Some see his 2014 article in The Atlantic, Why I Hope to Die at 75, as evidence of disdain toward the old, though arguably opening up the economy faster would likely be more dangerous to the elderly, who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.)


Note that, to the philosopher Peter Singer, as well as several commenters, the idea of a full lockdown for a year or more also poses, in Singer's words, "horrific [consequences], in terms of unemployment in particular."

He suggests the trade-offs will come out differently in wealthier countries, which can theoretically provide more support to their residents, and poorer countries, which can't.