Toronto Raptors could play games in empty Scotiabank Arena if coronavirus worsens
Less than a week after being advised to avoid physical contact with fans due to 2019 novel coronavirus fears, Toronto Raptors players are now being told to prepare to play games in completely empty stadiums.
The NBA has sent another memo to its teams with updates on how the league plans to handle things if outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to worsen globally.
Part of its plan is, if need be, to completely bar fans, media and any "non-essential" staff from games to avoid the risk of community spread.
The statement, sent to franchises on March 6, also said that players should anticipate undergoing temperature and symptom checks to ensure teams are coronavirus-free, according to ESPN.
Many players aren't too enthused about the news, as they're at their best when playing for an energetic crowd — L.A. Lakers star LeBron James told the sports news outlet when interviewed on the subject, "If I show up to an arena, and there ain't no fans there, I ain't playing."
The NBA isn't the only sports association that is considering which precautions to take in the face of the spreading virus, over which numerous large-scale conferences and other recent public gatherings have been cancelled.
@MattShoe52 is the hero the fans need. if mlb decides it’s best not to interact with fans in these times being able to make a kid’s day that much more fun at the ballpark with a signed ball is an awesome idea.— Shayne Bampton (@snoshi) March 8, 2020
The Toronto Blue Jays had a special meeting about health and safety on March 8, where the possibility of pre-signing baseballs, cards and other memorabilia instead of accepting these items directly from fans was brought up.
Some NHL teams have closed their usually bustling dressing rooms to media while the league also looks at playing empty arenas — as well as postponing games — if worst comes to worst.
The Chinese Basketball Association has completely postponed its current season and suspended all games, and the world's most famous soccer players have already been playing games without any fans filling the seats.
Lebron would never!— Butta (@LikeButta) March 8, 2020
Hopefully only the lightest of the potential precautionary measures will need to come into play, and the changes don't inspire even further public panic over the novel illness.
Presently, there have been upwards of 111,000 cases of COVID-19 in 97 countries worldwide, with more than half of those cases already recovered. Nearly 4,000 people have died from the communicable disease — most of them old and/or immunocompromised, and 80 per cent of them in China — which has a mortality rate of around 3.4 per cent.
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