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Play all games as scheduled, but keep the fans away

We are not out of the woods yet with the coronavirus. Not by a long, long shot.

This thing isn’t just miraculously going to go away.

Tragically, people are still going to die. The death toll already has topped 75,000, and that number could reach 200,000 or more by the end of the year.

We’re nowhere close to a vaccine, or broad-based testing followed by extensive contact tracing.

This bottom line will not change for some time: If you come into contact with someone who has the coronavirus, there’s a good chance you could contract it and pass it along to people you know — putting others at great risk.

As a society, we absolutely cannot assume this is all behind us and just start going about our lives once again the way we always have.

Not now. Not in September. Not, really, until there is a vaccine, or at the very least herd immunity.

Given what I’ve written so far, it should come as no surprise that I believe it’s preposterous to think we would allow tens of thousands of fans to attend college football games this fall.

I believe we should start the college season on time in early September, but that either no fans or a very limited number of fans should be allowed to attend games for the rest of the year.

Like it or not, maintaining strict social distancing measures is the best way to help prevent a devastating second wave of the virus.

We have to restart society in cautious ways, and that process has begun nationwide. While saving lives is first and foremost, we also must protect the American way of life, and that means balancing all health concerns with the realities of potential economic catastrophe brought about by extended lockdowns.

When it comes to college sports, it would be catastrophic to not have a football season. We all understand the money football brings in is vital to athletic programs, so all measures must be considered in order to play a season.

I started out thinking a January or February opening would be best, perhaps buying more time to find a vaccine. But that timetable would destroy the logistics of the 2021 football calendar, most notably forcing college kids to finish one season around May, then start another four months later. That is too dangerous from a physical standpoint.

So, my preference would be to go ahead and play the regularly scheduled season, with two requirements:

1. All players and team officials must be tested frequently — meaning several times a week. The nation hopefully will have enough tests by then for people in the largest and most economically important businesses to be frequently tested.

2. Keep fans away.

A Penn State game attracts 100,000 fans from across PA and several other states. There’s just no way to know where all those people have been, who they’ve been in contact with and how dangerous it could be if even a handful of them brought the virus into the stadium.

Maybe 5,000 or so fans could be allowed and forced to sit far apart, but even that number could still lead to some large and potentially dangerous gatherings outside the stadium.

Play the games, keep fans away and schools would still get their TV money that would pay for the bulk of their athletic budgets.

It’s not an ideal solution, obviously, but it would be the safest way to go about playing a full season.

Giger can be reached at cgiger@altoonamirror.com.

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