COVID-19 can't stop one of America's biggest 4th of July traditions from happening ... 'cause the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest WILL go down this year ... but with some major changes.
TMZ Sports has learned ... the event is set to take place at a private location without fans in 2020 ... and will feature 1/3 of the competitors to ensure social distancing.
The hot dog eating contest usually draws thousands of fans at Surf and Stillwell Avenues on Coney Island each year ... but given the global pandemic, it's all gonna be behind closed doors.
We're told all staffers will be wearing masks and gloves, and all eaters will be tested for COVID-19 prior to the showdown ... and the location will be sanitized to the max.
As we previously reported, 12-time champ Joey Chestnut said back in April he was preparing for the event as if it were happening ... so he'll be ready to try to smash his record of 74 franks in 10 minutes.
To make things even sweeter, Major League Eating -- the organization behind the event -- and the eaters are making donations to local food banks and will honor essential workers in NYC for their service.
Anyone else hungry for some tube steaks all of a sudden?