COVID-19 has hit the Pacific Northwest.
At least 10 people from Washington State have died from what is better known as the coronavirus. Some schools and public events have closed or been cancelled amid concerns of the outbreak and further spread, and sporting events could be next.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee joined Seattle Morning News on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM on Thursday and acknowledged the spread of the coronavirus could have an impact on sports in the state.
“We are starting to consider that and have been now for some period of time,” Inslee said. “So, what we are doing is evaluating the legal requirements that are involved in making a decision like that and we are socializing people to the possibility of that.”
Inslee said they have currently not made any decisions to limit public events, including sporting events, but it could be a measure the state could eventually implement.
“It would be a hierarchy of things. The first thing would be to legally prohibit gatherings over a certain number. That can be done by the emergency powers by the governor in statute. To talk about things that are not necessary in our lives, meaning entertainment and sports and political gatherings, I suppose, that are not intrinsic to our economy or our education.”
Washington events that could be impacted
If the state did choose to shut down sporting events in Washington State, it would have an effect on a number of major sports teams. The Seattle Mariners, for example, are set to begin the MLB season with a seven-game homestand beginning on March 26.
"Currently, we are following guidance from public health authorities and our medical staff to provide training and resources to safeguard the health and well-being of our staff and provide a safe and sanitary facility for the start of the season in four weeks,” the Mariners said in a statement. “This is an evolving situation and we’ll continue to keep fans updated by email, social media and our website."
The Seattle Dragons have three more games at CenturyLink Field this season on March 15, March 22 and April 11. Spokane, Washington is also scheduled to host the first and second-round of the men’s NCAA March Madness Tournament March 19-21.
Some basketball games around the Seattle area have already been effected. The University of Missouri-Kansas City, as well as Chicago State, announced its men’s team would not travel to Seattle University because of coronavirus concerns.
While the Seattle Sounders are scheduled to host Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, there has been no indication that the game won’t go on as planned. The team’s MLS season opener against Chicago Fire FC continued to draw large crowds. Sounders goalie Stefan Frei was seen signing autographs and personal items for fans.
“Sounders FC is part of both a regional task force and Major League Soccer’s task force to monitor this developing situation,” the club said in a statement. “As matters evolve and more information becomes available, we will continue to provide relevant details to the public.”
The Seattle Sounders next games at home are against Columbus Crew on March 7 and FC Dallas on March 21.
Just 174 miles south on the I-5 corridor, the Portland Trail Blazers are also taking precautions to keep their players safe. The NBA sent out a memo to all 30 teams advising players to avoid high-fives and offer fist-bumps when interracting with fans.
Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum took to Twitter to let fans know he would not be signing autographs until further notice.
"You just have to be careful," McCollum told NBCS Northwest. "Obviously, it’s affecting people, especially who are displaying weaker immune systems, people over 60. Wash your hands; try to reduce contact with outsiders and outside germs."
The Blazers have 19 games remaining in the regular season, including 11 at home, over the final six weeks of the season.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and will keep guests informed of any changes to scheduled events at Moda Center or Veterans Memorial Coliseum,” the Trail Blazers’ statement said. "We have increased the frequency of disinfecting high touchpoint areas on campus, provided additional hand sanitizing stations, switched to anti-bacterial soap and have distributed informational preventative health flyers throughout the campus."
The Portland Timbers hosted their season-opener on Sunday night against Minnesota and will play their next match on March 8 at Providence Park. The team says they will continue to monitor COVID-19 concerns.
“The Timbers have a very robust and thorough housekeeping program in place at Providence Park," the Timbers said in a statement. "We have bolstered our efforts by installing additional hand sanitizing stations and deploying a crew to disinfect surfaces throughout every match night. We encourage fans to wash their hands frequently, and if not feeling well, please stay home. We remain in close contact with local and national health authorities and are monitoring the situation closely.”
The Moda Center will also be home to 2020 NCAA women's basketball tournament Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds, which will be played on March 28 and 30. The West Regional will draw fans and teams from across the country.
Extra hand sanitizer stations and increased cleaning procedures have been implemented at the Rose Quarter to educate spectators about preventative health.
While many sporting events in the Pacific Northwest have not been canceled, moved or postponed yet, the ramifications of the coronavirus have disrupted other areas of the world.
Club soccer in Italy will be held without spectators until at least April 3, while Switzerland suspended games until March 23 as club's refused to play in front of stadiums without fans. China's World Cup qualifying games have been moved to Thailand and the LPGA Tour canceled its events in China, Singapore and Thailand in February and March.