The dominos just keep falling.
On Wednesday, the world of sports and Arkansas public health collided like never before. Hours after the NCAA declared that it will block the general public from attending March Madness games next week, the ACC, SEC and Big Ten announced they will start doing the same starting on Thursday.
“The Southeastern Conference has announced it will conduct the 2020 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament with only essential staff, limited family and credentialed media in attendance at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the remainder of the week beginning on Thursday following the recommendation of the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel related to conducting sporting events closed to the public,” a statement said.
Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek then chimed in:
“Without these extraordinary circumstances we would be looking forward to hosting thousands of Razorback fans on our campus in the next few weeks to cheer on our student-athletes” Yurachek said. “However, our first priority is the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff as well as the wellbeing of our loyal fans who support them. We will continue to work with the University of Arkansas, the SEC and NCAA in regard to this rapidly changing issue. We appreciate the patience and understanding of all those impacted by these measures.”
The UA will host home athletic competitions with restricted attendance from now until at least Monday, March 30 at which time the SEC and its member universities will re-evaluate conditions.
Here’s the rest of the statement from Yurachek:
Tonight, the Hogs play Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament. This will almost certainly be the last time that most Hog fans get to see their basketball team play in person this season. The NIT, for which Arkansas is likely to qualify, should also bar the general public soon.
The SEC tournament crowd on what could be the last night of spectator sports in this country for a while. pic.twitter.com/KMN1uGrFWT— Michael Casagrande (@ByCasagrande) March 11, 2020
As if all this wasn’t crazy enough, the NBA announced it’s suspending its season after All-Star Rudy Gobert tested positive for of coronavirus:
Breaking: The NBA is suspending the season. pic.twitter.com/V0G7xxpsak— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 12, 2020
To some fans this may seem like panic mode.
While Arkansas only had its first presumptive case of coronavirus announced today, there are almost certainly many more unconfirmed COVID-19 cases spreading throughout the state currently.
It’s already causing a ripple effect at the high school level (Pulaski Academy in Little Rock closed today because one of its student’s parents is medical personnel in contact with the CO-VID 19 patient in Pine Bluff).
It’s not a question of if all this will affect the SEC Tournament and Razorback sports. It’s a question of when that will happen in the next few days.
“We live in a country where college campuses are literally shutting down and big corporations are telling their employees not to come to work — Google is telling its employees not to come to work, work from home. It seems insane to then play basketball games and say to 18,000 people, let’s come get together. It just runs counter to the way our country is operating right now.”-CBS’ Gary Parrish
Barring the public from sporting events — which has already happened in other places around the U.S. and in Italy with professional soccer games — is a form of social distancing meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The tricky thing about COVID-19 is that most of the people who carry have few if any side effects. If you’re healthy and younger than 65, you may never even know you had it.
But that also means it can spread quickly and under the radar, which is especially dangerous for more sick/elderly people.
“When you say things like, well, there’s only X amount of confirmed cases, that doesn’t mean there’s only X amount of people carrying that virus right now. We have no idea,” Gary Parrish said on the CBS podcast “Eye on College Baskeball.”
“We have no idea how many people are carrying around that virus. And it’s not just that I could get it or you could get it or a 22 year old college student could get it. What the studies show to the extent we know anything about this is that if a healthy 22 year old becomes a confirmed for a case of coronavirus, that person is probably going to be fine. But while that person is carrying that virus, it can be passed off to a 75-year-old who might not be fine.”
The takeaway here is that banning fans from watching the Hogs at the SEC Tournament and the NIT is small change compared to the social distancing that should go down in the coming weeks as the virus spreads.
The SEC is simply getting out in front of the matter before it’s too late.
Is this coronavirus thing just a bunch of overblown fake news?
It’s the first legit pandemic of our lifetimes.
Fortunately, other nations have already provided a roadmap to recovery as things worsen stateside. The other countries have already weathered the worst of it and shown that extreme social distancing measures can help prevent its exponential growth.
This highly informative article on coronavirus lays this out better than anything I’ve yet seen.
Below is graph from it that all Americans should pay attention to.
In shows the growth of the virus in the Chinese city where it began — Wuhan. The orange bar graphs are the confirmed cases, while the grey bars are the actual number of cases extrapolated from data that was later known.
“If you stack up the orange bars until 1/22, you get 444 cases,” Thomas Pueyo wrote. “Now add up all the grey bars. They add up to ~12,000 cases. So when Wuhan thought it had 444 cases, it had 27 times more. If France thinks it has 1,400 cases, it might well have tens of thousands.”
And, yes, this same “tip of the iceberg” logic applies to United States, too, as more coronavirus cases become known in interior states like Arkansas.
The only way to prevent it from sickening hundreds of thousands of people is to enact the same kind of social distancing measures that the east Asian nations have already used to stem its tide.
Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong were all hit by SARS in 2003, “and all of them learned from it,” Pueyo writes. “They learned how viral and lethal it could be, so they knew to take it seriously. That’s why all of their graphs [see them here], despite starting to grow much earlier, still don’t look like exponentials.”
No high school and college fans like the idea of being barred from their team’s basketball and baseball games. Arkansans aren’t any different.
But, in the bigger scope of the challenges that could rise if leaders don’t take this seriously, such a sacrifice is small.
Given that President Trump just suspended travel from Europe (except the UK) to the U.S., it looks like the tide is rapidly shifting and U.S. leaders are responding like they should.