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NBA discussing moving games to other cities, playing in empty arenas due to Coronavirus

Charlotte Hornets v Atlanta Hawks

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 09: Ballboys wear gloves while handling warmup basketballs as a precautionary measure prior to an NBA game between the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on March 9, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

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Wednesday, NBA owners will have a conference call with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA staff to discuss how the league should handle protecting players and fans as the number of Coronavirus cases in the United States grows. Thursday comes separate calls with team presidents and general managers on the same topic.

What the people on those calls will hear is a range of options that include potentially moving games, playing in empty arenas, or postponing games altogether, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. of the scenarios introduced into the league’s conversation includes moving some games to NBA cities that have yet to suffer outbreaks, league sources told ESPN.

If the virus clusters and forces a team out of its city and arena for a period of time, there has been discussion on moving games to the away opponent’s arena if that city hasn’t suffered an outbreak -- or even moving games to neutral cities and sites, league sources tell ESPN.

The NBA is discussing a number of possibilities -- including eliminating fans out from buildings for games or, more drastically, suspending game operations for a period of time -- but sources say decisions on those options remain complicated by the fact that there has been such a limited amount of public testing for the coronavirus in the United States. There is no full understanding of how widespread and debilitating the virus could become in the states.

The USA is just now starting to ramp up testing for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, but as a nation are behind the curve — some experts have said the people that are testing positive now likely got caught the disease a week or two ago. The United States is not moving fast enough to keep up with the pace of the virus itself.

Individual states are stepping up requests to ban large public events. For example, Ohio governor Mike DeWine requested there be a pause in mass indoor gatherings to watch sporting events, which would impact the Cavaliers (and the NCAA Tournament). Other states are expected to follow suit.

The NBA has spoken to experts and tried to follow local guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on how to handle this situation. So far it has only closed locker rooms to non-essential personnel and changed how the media interacts with players, but there is a growing sense from team officials that at least some games from the league may be played in empty buildings with no fans. The league also understands the hardship that would fall on arena workers and others who depend on game-day revenue if that were to happen.

There are no easy answers.

In the United States, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and 30 deaths. Worldwide, more than 112,000 people have tested positive with more than 3,900 deaths attributed to the virus. The majority of people — an estimated 80 percent — who get the virus suffer only mild symptoms (and may not realize they have it, speeding the spread). The deaths are primarily among vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or people with respiratory issues.