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Coronavirus fears force Johns Hopkins to ban fans from NCAA Division III basketball tournament on campus

Concerns about a potential outbreak of the coronavirus have forced Johns Hopkins officials to ban fans from attending the first and second rounds of the Division III men’s basketball tournament at Goldfarb Gymnasium in Baltimore on Friday and Saturday.

The decision was made late Thursday night, less than 24 hours before Yeshiva (27-1) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (20-7) meet at 1 p.m. and Penn State Harrisburg (20-7) and the Blue Jays (24-3) play at 6 p.m.

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Although all three cases are based in Montgomery County, Johns Hopkins officials cited the confirmations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines regarding mass gatherings as reasons for their decision.

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“In light of Maryland’s recently confirmed cases of COVID-19, and based on CDC guidance for large gatherings, we have determined that it is prudent to hold this tournament without spectators,” the university announced. “We are not making any determination about other JHU events at this time; while we await further guidance from public health authorities, we will be assessing large events on a case-by-case basis. We regret any inconvenience to the families and fans of the players.”

During his evening news conference in Annapolis, Hogan also declared a state of emergency in Maryland that permits state health and emergency management officials to “ramp up coordination” among state and local agencies. The state’s emergency operations center has also been activated to support the response to the coronavirus.

Earlier Thursday, a hotel in Pikesville canceled the reservation of the Yeshiva team over fears of coronavirus, the coach of the Maccabees told the Associated Press.

Coach Elliot Steinmetz said the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel canceled the reservation, forcing the team to book rooms at a different hotel. A student at the Orthodox Jewish university has tested positive for the virus.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the wife, two children and a neighbor of a New York lawyer who is hospitalized in critical condition with COVID-19 have also tested positive for the disease. One of the lawyer's children is a student at Yeshiva University.

The family and the neighbor have been self-quarantined at home.

The institution has canceled classes at its upper Manhattan campus.

Josh Joseph, the university’s senior vice president, said the infected student is not a member of the basketball team, has not participated in any team events and has not been on campus since Feb. 27. He added that the New York City Department of Health has “cleared” the team to participate in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Stanford has also established attendance limits at 10 sports venues “to allow fans the opportunity for social distancing” as a precautionary measure given concerns about the coronavirus.

The university said Thursday that attendance would involve limiting entrants to about one-third of each venue's capacity through April 15 or beyond that date if necessary.

Stanford has applied to host first- and second-round women’s NCAA Tournament basketball games later this month and discussions were ongoing about whether the university would continue with those plans, Stanford said.

Also Thursday, the Northwest Athletic Conference community college women’s basketball tournament in Everett, Washington, was suspended after the host school was shut down because of coronavirus concerns.

The tournament was in its third game of the day between North Idaho College and Lower Columbia when it was announced that Everett Community College, the host school, was being closed through the weekend.

The school later released a statement saying a student at the college had tested positive for coronavirus.

Fans who purchased tickets in advance should contact the Johns Hopkins Athletics Department at 410-516-7490 or email kmwilson@jhu.edu during regular business hours (9 am – 5 pm) to obtain a refund.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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