Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, doubts that National Basketball Association teams can host full-capacity crowds during the 2020-2021 season, with unlimited capacities at sports venues among "the last thing[s] that you're going to see" as the country moves toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic next year. Public health experts concur that the reinstatement of tightly-packed crowds will depend on various factors, including human behavior and adoption of upcoming vaccines.
"We're going to be vaccinating the highest-priority people [from] the end of December through January, February, March," Fauci predicted. "By the time you get to the general public, the people who'll be going to the basketball games, who don't have any underlying conditions, that's going to be starting the end of April, May, June."
Fauci also suggested that a return to full capacity in National Football League stadiums in September is possible. "Having an efficacious vaccine in and of itself doesn't get us out of this difficult situation we're in," he admitted. "But an efficacious vaccine that's widely utilized could get us to a point where we're really approaching normality." With experts agreeing that the virus will not simply be eradicated, the reopening of sporting events and other large gatherings will proceed gradually, with capacity limitations dialed back, and smaller venues will probably be able to come back sooner than larger.