U.S.-based sports leagues continue to step up their coronavirus precautions.
The NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS issued a joint statement on Monday saying the leagues will all close their locker rooms and clubhouses for media availability before and after games and practices effective Tuesday.
“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact, on pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of the team and team facilities until further notice,” the statement said. “Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting.”
“We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further step necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”
The “temporary changes” are expected to go back to normal after medical personnel give the OK.
NBA teams are being told to create a 6-8 foot distance between players and reporters during media availability outside the locker room, according to ESPN. The recommended distance by the Center for Disease Control is 6 feet.
ESPN is also reporting that MLB does plan to play the rest of spring training and begin its regular season on time, but the plan is subject to change based on the spread of the coronavirus. MLB will monitor each market and see whether local health authorizes recommend games not be played. One potential scenario could see teams play games at differently locations outside their metro areas.
The NHL has already given its teams the option to close their locker rooms to the media and hold availability in formal press conference areas. Many teams have done so, including the Rangers, Islanders and Devils.
On Friday, the NBA told its franchises to prepare to play games with only essential personnel, meaning without fans and even media, should the situation call for it.
Lakers star LeBron James has already spoken out against the idea of playing games that fans are not allowed to attend.
“If I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing,” James said Saturday.
The Big East conference released a statement Monday saying it plans to conduct its men’s basketball tournament from March 11-14 at Madison Square Garden as scheduled and will continue to monitor the situation with the city authorities.
Sporting events throughout the world have adjusted their schedules in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The latest was the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., which postponed its event because of coronavirus fears in the area. As well, the IIHF canceled the Women’s World Championship hockey tournament this month. The NCAA Division III basketball tournament began with fans not allowed in to the Johns Hopkins first-round site.
According to the Center for Disease Control, as of Monday afternoon, there have been 423 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 35 different states and 19 deaths.