“There have obviously been the bubble systems with the NBA and other leagues—and in some cases that’s been very successful,” says Kucharski.
So those questions are cropping up: What activities do we want to prioritize?Illustration by Bryce Wood: Harrison Barden/USA Today Sports (Tipoff); Quinn Harris/USA Today Sports (background); iStock/Getty Images (COVID-19).In the U.S., it was hoped that these issues were left behind last summer, when leagues emerged from early-pandemic hibernation to resume playing in so-called bubbles; instead, like the virus itself, they have been growing in force of late.
In particular, the rapid worldwide emergence of several über-contagious COVID-19 variants—most notably the one wreaking havoc on British life—is expected to further threaten the U.S.’s plodding path toward herd immunity.“It’s like when you’re reading a thriller,” says Alessandro Vespignani, director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University, whose research focuses on modeling epidemics.
“That’s the important background, that there are tons and tons of mutations,” says Shira Doron, hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center.
“And typically they don’t really change anything about the virus.
They change the genetic code, but they don’t make the virus any different.
scientists in late September, the B117 lineage of COVID-19 has since spread to some 50 countries, including the U.S., where its presence was confirmed in 14 states through Friday.
Characterized by a high number of mutations, including several in the spike proteins that the virus uses to infiltrate host cells, this variant also boasts an exponentially faster secondary attack rate.
“A lot of the data is pointing toward, potentially, a 40% to 50% increase in transmission,” says Kucharski.
“This window,” says Kucharski, “is crucial.”.What does a faster spread look like in English soccer: With players infected, Aston Villa was forced to field a team of teens and 20-somethings during an FA Cup game.One thing, though, seems all but certain: Some highly contagious variant will spread widely in the U.S., and soon.
“It could be a disaster,” says Doron, “because it’s coming on top of a post-holiday surge, on top of every single part of this country on an [infection] upswing, very full hospitals.
“I suspect we’ll find the variant in the systems of those sports leagues,” says Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins.
“There’s no reason to think that precautions like masks, handwashing, social distancing will have any less of an impact,” says Nick Davies, another epidemiologist at the LSHTM.“It’s a no-brainer that the outside-the-game stuff”—like talking face-to-face after a game or, say, partying without a mask, as Nets point guard Kyrie Irving was recently fined $50,000 for doing—"has to be completely out of the question,” says Doron?“Obviously we want sports, and we want activities that provide leisure and fun,” says Vespignani.“It’s like in footballThe Cougars have played like a top-10 team nationally, but will anyone else join it in the Big Dance
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