COVID-19 concerns prompt Cal Athletics, NCAA, other sports organizations to remove most spectators

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Update 3/11/2020: This article has been updated with more information from Cal Athletics and the Overwatch League.

Update 3/11/2020: This article has been updated with more information from the Pac-12.

Update 3/11/2020: this article has been updated with more information from the NBA. 

COVID-19, a virus that has prompted the cancellation of in-person classes, has now impacted Cal Athletics.

UC Berkeley announced that “Intercollegiate athletic events on campus will feature no spectators,” in a statement released Wednesday by UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor of Administration Marc Fisher. 

This change comes just days after Cal Athletics confirmed that it was not placed under the same restrictions that moved almost all in-person classes online.

“These changes are in keeping with guidance from public health officials to avoid large gatherings as a way to limit community spread of the coronavirus,” Fisher said in the statement.

Cal Athletics has released a statement outlining that only essential personnel will be allowed to attend home events beginning Wednesday.

“To help protect at-risk populations and lessen the spread of the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation, attendance at Cal Athletics home events will be limited to essential personnel only, beginning Wednesday,” Cal Athletics said.

Essential personnel include students athletes, coaches, sports medicine staff, game officials, credentialed media and operational and administrative staff.

Fans who have purchased tickets to spectatorless sporting events have the option of exchanging their tickets, requesting a refund and donating tickets to non-profit organizations of the ticketholder’s choice.

Cal is not alone in removing spectators from athletic events. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the end of year men’s and women’s basketball championship tournaments, also known as March Madness, will be held without most spectators — only certain staff and limited family will be allowed.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a press release. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and most importantly, our student-athletes.”

Furthermore, Santa Clara will not travel to Cal for their upcoming rugby matchup, due to Santa Clara guidelines. 

The San Fransisco Shock, an esports team in the Overwatch League, has canceled their first planned homestand event,“Shock Fest,” as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The event was originally planned for March 28 and 29. 

“The health and safety of employees fans, players, teams, and partners is paramount to Activision Blizzard Esports,” the Overwatch League said in a statement. “After careful review, and working in close collaboration with our teams, we are cancelling all Overwatch League events scheduled for March and April.”

The Pac-12 announced that it will limit attendance at Pac-12 Tournament games starting with the second round games Thursday. This comes after two first round games have already been played. Only essential personnel will be allowed to attend games.

Colorado plays Washington State at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Cal plays Stanford in its first game of the conference tournament at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The NBA has elected to suspend its season until further notice after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus before the Jazz’s game at the Oklahoma City Thunder. Players from both teams are quarantined at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Michael Brust is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeB_DC.