US sports leagues deal with COVID-19 variants amongst outbreaks

DENVER (AP), -- U.S. leagues are experiencing rapidly increasing COVID-19 epidemics, with dozens of athletes in safety protocols and health protocols. This is despite an ongoing surge of the coronavirus delta variant and rising cases of the highly transmissible Omicron mutation.

US sports leagues deal with COVID-19 variants amongst outbreaks

The NBA and NHL had to cancel games in the last month due to so many players being sidelined. Tulane and Washington's men's basketball teams were also affected by outbreaks. The NFL will not postpone games and could consider forfeits.

These difficulties in American sports follow soaring European infections. In Europe, officials of the English Premier League had to cancel three matches within four days because of the virus. The German government also temporarily restricted the attendance at Bundesliga arenas to half the normal level or 15,000 fans.

However, don't be surprised if the U.S. leagues go back to bubble play for a few weeks or are shut down completely.

"The way our system works now, an infected person can trigger a series of events that causes confusion, disruption, and mayhem. However, from a medical perspective, these people are mostly vaccinated, and they won't be going to the hospital," Dr. Peter Chinhong, an infectious disease specialist at University of California, San Francisco, said.

"We are in a completely different place than we were a year ago. Chin-Hong said that it's not too difficult for young, healthy athletes.

There is too much financial risk for leagues to consider shutting down, considering the millions upon millions lost last year when sports went on hiatus. Fan pressure is another factor to consider.

The short answer is money. Nola Agha, a professor of sport management at the University of San Francisco, said that money is what drives (the leagues) to continue playing, even in the face of these epidemics.

She said, "I don’t believe they will reduce fans or shut down an entire season." "I believe they will do their best within local health department guidelines. This might decrease the number of fans."

Canada's largest province, Ontario, set a cap at 50% for large gatherings like professional sporting events on Wednesday.

The NHL had 10 of the most delayed games this season. In mid-November, the Senators came in first followed by the Calgary Flames (and the Carolina Hurricanes) this week. The Nashville Predators were the first to add six players and six employees to their safety and health protocols. Patrice Bergeron, captain of the Boston Bruins, was also in attendance.

According to someone with direct knowledge of the discussions between the league, the NHL Players'Association, the omicron variant is most responsible for the increase in NHL cases. However, it doesn't account for all positive test results. Because the talks were confidential, the person spoke under the condition of anonymity.

According to the person, the NHL will reintroduce enhanced COVID-19 protocols. This includes limiting players' access to their hotels while they are on the road and returning daily testing until Jan. 7.

Derek King, the interim coach of the Chicago Blackhawks who were supposed to face the Flames this Week, stated that the team had been emphasizing with players the importance social distancing and hygiene, as well as avoiding crowds.

King stated, "Just really knuckle under, because we don’t want to be one team that has to rearrange their schedules because we have COVID."

There are several NBA stars currently in COVID-19 protocols, including Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets. On Wednesday afternoon, there were 33 players in the protocols -- roughly 6.5% of the league. 17 of these were playing for Brooklyn or Chicago.

Due to insufficient players, the Bulls had two games delayed on Tuesday and Thursday. Brooklyn was able to play with a minimum of eight players on Tuesday.

The Golden State Warriors' guard Stephen Curry set a new record for three-pointers in a career at New York's Madison Square Garden that night. However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was not there. Both he and his deputy commissioner Mark Tatum were undergoing daily testing following an event hosted by Masai Ujiri. They both tested positive shortly afterwards.

"Like other parts of the country, and according to what was predicted by our infectious diseases specialists, we have witnessed an increase in cases around the league," Mike Bass, a spokesperson for the NBA, said Wednesday. He added that science and data will continue to guide the league and work with the Players Association.

According to the NBA, 97% of players have been vaccinated. Only 60% of players have had booster shots.

Preeti Malani is the University of Michigan's chief medical officer. She is an infectious disease expert who has been a member of two Big Ten COVID-19 advisory boards.

"The best thing we can do for our children, be it in sports, school, or at work, is to get highly vaccinated." Malani stated that boosting the primary series is also a good idea.

Perhaps the NFL's greatest advantage is that its games are mostly played outside, which means there is less risk for fans.

The league is experiencing its worst outbreak of players on the COVID/reserve list. Eighty-eight players tested positive Monday and Tuesday. Several more were added Wednesday, including eight from the Washington Football Team. The L.A. Rams currently have 16 players on the list.

This is a small percentage in a league that has about 2,200 players, including active rosters, injured reserve and practice squads. However, omicron could quickly cause this to increase.

Joe Judge, New York Giants coach, said that his players now wear masks indoors and are more spaced in meetings.

Judge stated that anyone who has been involved in any type of close contact or test at the moment has been either removed or separated and are now in virtual meetings.

For months, the NFL Players Association raised concerns about league testing shifting from weekly to daily. This could make it difficult for outbreak detection.

Chin-Hong from UCSF stated that they are right to be concerned, and the NFL should reconsider the policy.

He said, "Testing once per week is 2020." "We have the technology that allows us to test multiple times per day."

There were also cancellations at the college level.

AP was informed by the American Athletic Conference, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference that their policies had not changed since the start of school year. Teams who are unable to participate in conference games will be forfeited. ___

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