Ohio will bar spectators from attending indoor sporting events as the state grapples with outbreaks of the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine said on Wednesday.
The order, which is expected to go into effect within the next two days, would prohibit fans from attending NCAA tournament games scheduled to be played next week. in Dayton and Cleveland. The University of Dayton hosts the First Four play-in games, for two days beginning on March 17, while Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is the site of tournament's first and second rounds starting on March 20.
"This seems difficult for people," DeWine said. "But we know what’s coming. We know what’s around the corner."
Arizona State forward Taeshon Cherry (35) goes for a rebound against the St. John's during a First Four game of the 2019 NCAA tournament at Dayton Arena. (Photo: Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports)
In a series of tweets, DeWine said the step of barring spectators at large sporting events is needed "because we have the potential to become like Italy," a country that has been under self-quarantine amid widespread COVID-19 outbreaks.
"We are taking the actions we are taking now to try to avoid that," DeWine tweeted. "The situation will get bad before it gets better, but it is in our hands to determine what the outcome will be.
"Every expert has told us that there is a risk in any kind of mass gathering – the closer you are to other people, the bigger the risk. You must ask yourself if going to a large gathering is necessary."
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There are currently four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, DeWine said, adding that the state expects "cases to continue to grow as the virus spreads and the number of tests performed increases."
The ban will also impact the state's professional teams, the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL. Outdoor sporting events were not included in the ban, meaning the Cleveland Indians remain on schedule to open MLB's regular season at home against the Detroit Tigers on March 26.
Several cities have enacted similar procedures either limiting or banning outright large sporting events. San Francisco will prohibit indoor games with more than 1,000 spectators in attendance, while Washington state has banned gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle metro area.
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