MLS coronavirus suspension: How to get the stadiums back open

Nashville SC (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Nashville SC (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Major League Soccer has suspended play until May 10. The postponement is the league’s answer to slow the infection rate of coronavirus disease 2019. It is the only way we will get the speedy and safe return of MLS.

Keeping thousands from gathering at stadiums, theaters, schools, churches and community events is America’s way of avoiding becoming the next Italy. But battling COVID-19 this way has seen Major League Soccer suspend play for initially 30 days and then extend that postponement until May 10, with the admission that play could yet be further postponed.

I tried debating this social distancing policy with the few policymakers who’d listen to me, at least for a few seconds. After all, in the 2009 H1N1 swine flu epidemic, we didn’t do all this, did we? My debaters mostly included a very involved, very patient Houston business executive. They graciously reminded me that 12,469 Americans died of swine flu with the measures in place that I proposed we reinstated here. Not my brightest moment.

So it was explained to me. Health professionals don’t believe one pandemic equals any other pandemic. And there are several new aspects of this pandemic, the first of which is the case study of Italy. Italy couldn’t get in front of the coronavirus, at all. Now they’re all locked down. Those not yet deceased or infected are surviving on hope. There is no time for Plan B for Italy’s people.

Another shock is the tragic opening of coronavirus consciousness in the United States. That was when infected workers at Life Care Center senior-living near Seattle gave the disease to patients and others. As of March 18, 34 patients and one visitor died. Centers for Disease Control identified 129 cases traced to the Life Care Center.

The next new feature of this pandemic is the U.S.’ plan for everyone to emphasize social distancing. This is everyone, not just the people identified as most vulnerable. The worst-case scenario by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects up to 214 million infected and 1.7 million dead.

No matter how many of us get sick,  officials expect 20% to need the hospital. So slowing the rate of infection means our medical institutions don’t get overwhelmed like Italy. Hopefully, more of us recover as a result. With many of us working our day jobs from home, with restaurants only allowing take-out and everything else canceled, this is our daily world until the World Health Organization says, it’s over.

So turn back to MLS. How do we finish this and get our teams back on the pitch? The answer is the easiest part of this. Simply following the advice that is provided and keeping our minds’ eyes on the pitch in the distance. Dispel fear, disappointment, annoyance and any other negative, gnawing emotions. That’s our goal and we will have to stay positive and cooperative to achieve it.

Dr. Emmett Miller calls this outsmarting coronavirus. He emphasizes that not only does that keep us focused on our goal. But eliminating those negatives can help us stay well.

While we crave getting back to the stadium with our players on the pitch, getting there we achieve some much nobler goals. By taking a sane and sensible approach to social distancing, we keep others safe and well. We keep ourselves safe and well. And ultimately we will save lives in this pandemic.

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Keep that in mind. Because our goal isn’t only to get our players back on the pitch. You and I want to make it to the stadium, as well.