As governments around the world act to slow the spread of coronavirus — also known as COVID-19 — sports leagues are taking unprecedented and necessary moves to protect players and fans by postponing and canceling events.
The epidemic has so far claimed the lives of more than 4,900 people and sickened 130,500 others as of Thursday morning, March 12, according to the New York Times.
As PEOPLE previously reported, initial cases of the respiratory illness can be traced back to Wuhan, China in late December. Wuhan is a major transportation hub with hundreds of flights leaving and landing from the city of 11 million each day, and the virus quickly spread worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, the first since the Zika epidemic in 2016.
President Donald Trump announced restrictions on travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days, which begins Friday at midnight. So far, there have been 1,302 confirmed coronavirus cases and 38 deaths in the United States as of Thursday morning.
To help slow the transmission of the virus, many cities have begun to prohibit large gatherings — which directly affects sports franchises in these areas. Individual teams and leagues have now postponed or canceled games for the foreseeable future.
Sporting events that have been canceled or postponed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic include:
- NBA: The league announced on Wednesday night it would postpone its 2019-2020 season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus before a scheduled game.
- NHL: On Thursday, the league announced plans to suspend its season to slow the spread of the virus, spurred on by the developments in the NBA.
- MLS: The soccer league said they would go into a 30-day hiatus “based on the advice and guidance” of health organizations.
- MLB: Major League Baseball is expected to halt spring training on Thursday afternoon.
- NCAA: With the Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament scheduled for March, the NCAA announced plans to move forward with the games with limited attendance for fans.
- Europe: Italian soccer team Juventus was placed on a 14-day quarantine when a player tested positive for coronavirus. Many European soccer matches have been played without fans in attendance.
- Tennis: Organizers made the last-minute decision to call off the annual BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, due to coronavirus concerns. The ATP has called off matches for at least six weeks, and the highly anticipated Miami Open has been canceled.
- Olympics: The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic committees postponed their media summit in Los Angeles scheduled for March 15 to 18. Team USA Soccer has also canceled national team games.
So far, the NFL has not announced plans to delay its 2020-2021 season in response to the epidemic. The upcoming NFL Draft in Las Vegas is expected to go on without fans in attendance.
The XFL, in the midst of its inaugural season, has not announced plans to suspend play, though the Seattle Dragons franchise will play its March 15 game without fans.
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