CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The beginning of the month of March means the beginning of March Madness for sports fans across the country. Major conference college basketball tournaments are underway now and the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will begin shortly thereafter.
As teams prepare to take the court, elected leaders and public health officials find themselves answering questions about the coronavirus and it’s potential impact on major sporting events.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper spoke at multiple press conferences Tuesday afternoon – the same day the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament began play in Greensboro.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources, spoke at a press conference Tuesday and talked about whether members of the public should be attending large events.
“People at high risk, again that means above the age of 65 or with underlying health conditions, should avoid large groups of people as much as possible,” said Cohen.
When asked about ACC tournament, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said he would plan to attend to sporting events and mass gatherings as he is not a member of the ‘high risk category’. He noted that he is making no recommendation about canceling any events.
“I think people to have to make their own decisions about that and remember that these recommendations may be evolving as we see more and more about what’s happening,” said Cooper.
Not all elected leaders across the United States share the same sentiment.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine tweeted Tuesday that Ohio state officials want no spectators at indoor sporting events aside from athletes, parents and other people who are essential to the game.
The Atlantic Coast Conference released a list of precautions being taken to keep fans safe at the tournament in Greensboro. The list notes that frequent cleaning and sanitizing will be performed at areas throughout the arena.
Fans who spoke to WBTV Tuesday night said the tournament games will not be the same if they are being played in empty arenas.
“I totally get it from the safety precautions, but I do think from the sports side, it would be a little awkward,” said sports fan Steve Campbell.
Kyle Lewandowski, another fan, said he too thought coronavirus restrictions at games would impact the event.
“It would definitely take away from the players and the atmosphere, but ultimately when you’re playing, you’re focused on the game,” said Lewandowski.
Once conference tournaments conclude, the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will begin. The NCAA released a statement Tuesday noting that it is consulting with public health officials and it’s COVID-19 advisory panel. It states that a decision regarding NCAA championship events will be made in the coming days.