Spectator sports pondering a comeback in the coronavirus era got a harsh reality check in a new poll indicating that most fans will stay away.
In a Seton Hall University survey published Thursday, 72% of Americans said they would not attend games until a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is developed.
Only 13% said they would feel safe to attend under any circumstances, while 12% would go only if some form of social distancing was practiced.
The pandemic has decimated the sports calendar, shuttering Major League Baseball and the NBA indefinitely while postponing the Summer Olympics in Tokyo by a year. President Donald Trump conducted a conference call with sports officials last weekend to discuss the leagues’ potential return, but with a vaccine perhaps a year-and-a-half away, the prospect of luring back the faithful appears daunting ― at least according to the relatively small sample size of 762 Americans interviewed by phone in the poll. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.
Those who thought the NFL should not open its season if social distancing rules are still in effect numbered 70%.
For sports like baseball that are floating the idea of playing in empty stadiums, the poll revealed that 76% would watch the games on TV with the same enthusiasm as before.
One health expert wasn’t surprised by the poll results.
“It’s understandable that people may feel hesitant to attend sporting events or other crowded events, even if restrictions for social distancing are lifted,” Dr. Roberto Posada, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in New York City, told HuffPost on Friday. “While we hope that an effective vaccine will be developed, the process for vaccine development is slow and may take 12-18 months in a best-case scenario. Predicting what this virus will do in the next year would be very difficult, indeed impossible, at this point in time.”
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