If you’ve looked at the COVID-19 scoreboard lately, it may be easy to feel like a comeback is out of reach.

As cases continue to climb across the country as people prepare for the second consecutive pandemic-stained winter, sports leagues and teams have found their attempts to return to normalcy have fallen short.

Over the course of this week, around 100 players in the NFL have tested positive, including two Patriots. In the NBA, dozens of players are sidelined. And in the NHL, the Bruins currently have six players following the league’s COVID-19 protocol. That comes as Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy rejoined the team this week after receiving a positive test result on Nov. 30.

As COVID-19 has spread through the NFL, Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon is urging caution for his teammates during a strange time.

“We, as players in this building, we have to protect ourselves and try not to run into too many people that we don’t know what they doing, but that’s also hard,” a masked-up Judon told reporters earlier this week. “We’re trying to do charity work and be in the community as well, so it’s just a tough balance. And really, all we can say as leaders or anybody is just protect yourself. If you’re going outside, please wear a mask. Try not to spend time in places that you really don’t have to when you can be at home. But it’s a — as we all know from last year — this is a very tough time just staying at home.”

With all the news around how the virus is impacting even the best-prepared leagues, it’s easy to ask (again): Should games even be happening, this time in mostly full arenas and stadiums?

That answer, like so many others during a pandemic, is complicated.

Helen Boucher, the interim dean of Tufts University School of Medicine and an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center, points out that we now have vaccines to help keep people out of hospitals.

Still, when it comes to any decision involving going to events with large crowds, like the ones seen at sporting events, she said individuals have to make decisions about the risks they’re willing to take.

“And I think that in the current environment where I sit in Boston, Massachusetts, today, I would be concerned about gathering in large groups that would include unvaccinated individuals in indoor spaces,” she said. “That’s my personal opinion. If I was going to do it, I would mask up — and I would mask up with a good mask if I was going to make that decision.”

A crowd of people stand at their seats in an arena, cheering as hockey players skate on the ice rink.
FILE — A full capacity crowd watch Boston Bruins players warm up for Game 1 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series against the New York Islanders, Saturday, May 29, 2021, in Boston.
Elise Amendola AP

To be fair, TD Garden, the largest indoor sports venue in Boston, requires everyone 12 and older to either be fully vaccinated or have proof of a qualifying negative COVID test before entering, and all guests over the age of 2 must wear a mask unless eating or drinking.

But it can still be hard to square away the overall message of practicing caution with thousands of people gathered to watch games in giant arenas or huge outdoor stadiums.

Right now, it’s unclear if any of the major men’s league are going to undergo any major changes to crowd size, as they did previously. Games at Scotiabank Arena, home of the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs, will have crowd capacity reduced to 50 percent starting Saturday.

But regardless of how many people are going to be in-person to watch, it looks like the games are going to go on, just as they did before.

And that means teams are going to have play with depleted rosters as they tip-toe around COVID-19. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy admitted it’s frustrating for players and coaches who have to sit out games over positive tests.

“The frustration level in the short term is, yeah, guys wanna play, it’s what they do for a living,” he said. “Coaches want to coach, players want to play, they want to go to work, they want to do it in a safe environment. Hopefully, like I said, a lot of these cases, positive cases, turn into people coming out of it on the other side very healthy and not having to visit hospital rooms and that will be the good of it.”

Boucher made sure to point out that while the next few weeks may be difficult for many, it’s important to note that vaccines are giving a hope that wasn’t there before.

But unlike other jobs, there’s no work from home option on gameday. And for pro athletes like Pats safety Devin McCourty, that means he and his teammates will have to continue to think about COVID as the 12th man that won’t go away during what’s looking to be like one of the more difficult stretches of the pandemic.

“You know, I think for us as a team we’ve been pretty safe with it so far of how we’ve kind of handled ourselves,” he said to reporters this week as he knocked on wood. “And I think that coming off a bye week and this time of the year, the holidays, all of those different things play a factor, so we just try to tell everybody think about the team whatever you do, whatever decision you make, try to think about how will it impact the team and go from there.”