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Rafael Nadal reacts to a Hawk-Eye challenge decision. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed how teams, leagues and other sports organizations operate.

Why it matters: Some of those changes are temporary, but others will likely be permanent — and in some cases, COVID-19 merely sped up a technological evolution that was already well underway.

Two prime examples:

1. Robot refs: In an attempt to reduce the number of people on site, the U.S. Open (Aug. 31–Sept. 13) will replace line judges with an automated system called Hawk-Eye Live, NYT reports.

  • Hawk-Eye has been used in the past to challenge calls, but now it will go from serving as quality control and aiding the broadcast to being the first and final word.
  • The system uses recorded voices to shout things like "out" and "fault," and when a line call is particularly close, the voice projects more urgency. Like GPS systems, different voices — and languages — can be used.
A woman undergoes an iris scan at Clear's booth at Grand Central Station. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

2. Facial recognition: Multiple teams and leagues are testing facial-recognition technology and biometric screening to make admitting fans into stadiums as safe and touchless as possible.

  • Starting next year, LAFC fans will be able to use an app called Clear, which some airline passengers already use to speed through security. The Mets are testing the same system this season for players and coaches, and the NHL is using Clear to screen players and personnel inside its bubbles.
  • How it works, per WSJ (subscription): One camera measures the fan's temperature, while a second determines if they're wearing a mask. The fan then pulls down their mask to allow the camera see their face, which is linked to their TicketMaster account. If they have a ticket, they're allowed entry.

The big picture: The transition from physical to digital tickets has been underway for a decade. This is the next stage in that evolution, and the pandemic sped up the process. Someday soon, you'll probably be buying hot dogs with your face.

Go deeper

In photos: Firefighters battle 75 large blazes across West on first day of fall

Firefighters battling the Bobcat Fire near Cedar Springs in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 21 in Los Angeles, California. The blaze is the third-largest recorded in the county. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters worked into the night to tackle the massive BobCat Fire before the expected arrival of warmer and drier weather later in the week. The blaze has burned over 112,000 acres and was 17% contained late Tuesday.

The big picture: 75 large wildfires were burning in the U.S. Tuesday, the first day of fall, as cooler weather provided relief to firefighters and improved air quality across the West. The mega-fires have killed at least 36 people and charred more than 5 million acres in Oregon, Washington and California — where 26 people have died, over 7,1000 structures have been destroyed and more than 3.6 million acres have been razed.

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Most Americans are still vulnerable to the coronavirus

Adapted from Bajema, et al., 2020, "Estimated SARS-CoV-2 Seroprevalence in the US as of September 2020"; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As of September, the vast majority of Americans did not have coronavirus antibodies, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: As the coronavirus spreads rapidly throughout most of the country, most people remain vulnerable to it.