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NCAA chief medical officer: 'It's a very narrow path to get fall sports right'

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jetcityimage/iStockBy EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — As some college athletic conferences postpone fall sports and others forge ahead, Dr. Brian Hainline, senior vice president and chief medical officer at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), warned Thursday, “It’s a very narrow path to get fall sports right.”

“In April, we were envisioning that there would be a continued downward trajectory of COVID-19 new infections and deaths, that there would be a national surveillance system national testing, and national contact tracing that would allow us to really navigate this pandemic into re-socializing both in sport and then the rest of society,” he said during a media briefing hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America on the impact of COVID-19 on college athletics.

“That hasn’t happened, and it’s made it very challenging to make decisions as we approach fall sport,” Hainline said.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine and global health at Emory University and a member of the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel, recommended “that we hold off and we control this virus.”

“My advice to organizations that I’ve talked to is: if you cannot do it safely, you shouldn’t do it,” del Rio said at Thursday’s briefing.

The U.S. has “a quarter of the world’s total number of cases,” Del Rio stressed.

“I feel like the Titanic, and we have hit the iceberg, and we’re trying to make decisions of what time we should have the band play,” del Rio went on. “I think a lot of the discussions of whether we should have sports, [or] we shouldn’t have sports, should really be focused on getting control of the pandemic.”

The Pac-12, Big Ten and Big East conferences announced this week that they’re postponing all fall sports.

The Big 12 announced Wednesday that it will move forward with fall sports this year and will give athletes in high-contact sports including football three COVID-19 tests per week.

The SEC is also moving forward. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said Tuesday, “We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19.”

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