The Coronavirus Might Kill ‘March Madness’
03 Mar, 2020
The NCAA has established a coronavirus advisory panel composed of medical experts and student-athlete liaisons to “to guide its response to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease” as the sport’s governing body continues to move ahead as planned with the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, which begin later this month.
“The NCAA is committed to conducting its championships and events in a safe and responsible manner,” said Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief operating officer. “Today we are planning to conduct our championships as planned, however, we are evaluating the COVID-19 situation daily and will make decisions accordingly.
“The NCAA will make decisions that are first and foremost reflective of medical best practices and keeps the health and safety of student-athletes, administrators and fans as the number one priority.”
The strain of coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV or COVID-19, has now accounted for 117 known cases in the U.S. and nine deaths, all in Washington state. Spokane, Washington, will serve as one of the host sites for the first and second rounds of the men’s tournament.
The panel will be led by Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, and will include experts from the University of Colorado, Emory University, Vanderbilt University and the U.S. Tennis Association, along with Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General of the United States.
The advisory panel will also feature athletes from Coastal Carolina University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Carson-Newman University and the University of Texas at Dallas. This group “will provide their perspective to the advisory panel,” the NCAA said in a news release.
“We are actively monitoring COVID-19 in the United States and will make recommendations on competition based on the evolving medical protocols established by the CDC, NIH and state and local authorities,” said Hainline. “Given the fluid situation, the advisory panel will meet regularly and provide valuable insight and expertise as the Association navigates this complicated public health challenge.”
The men’s tournament is scheduled to begin in Dayton, Ohio, on March 17 before expanding to the first and second rounds of competition on March 19. The women’s tournament is scheduled to start on March 20.
The NCAA, through its Sports Science Institute, has sent two memos to member schools discussing the coronavirus and its potential impact on major sporting events. The memos, which were issued to athletics directors, health care administrators, conference commissioners and head athletic trainers and team physicians, included links to CDC resources on travel, coronavirus symptoms and topics to discuss with campus leadership.
“NCAA staff continues to prepare for March Madness but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the CDC,” the NCAA said in a statement sent to USA TODAY Sports on Feb. 26.
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