I feel a little weird that this is turning into the daily Field of Microbes report, but that’s probably where everything is headed anyway within the next couple of weeks (if not sooner), so may as well learn to live with it.
In any event, things have changed so much in the last 48 hours that Monday’s prediction that we could see lots of sports played behind closed doors is starting to sound impossibly quaint. Among the latest developments:
- Italy’s Serie A, which has already suspended games through the end of the month, now says it may be forced to truncate or abandon the season altogether, either resorting to a playoff system to determine a winner or giving up on determining a champion altogether.
- The Spanish club Getafe C.F. is refusing to travel to Milan for its scheduled Europa League Round of 16 game against Inter Milan, after Italy was placed on lockdown because of widespread coronavirus infections in Lombardy, where Milan is located. (Europa League and Champions League games in Italy are still on, but set to be played in stadiums empty of fans.) “If we have to lose the tie, we will lose it,” said Getafe president Angel Torres. “I will not be the one to assume any risk. It makes us very emotional, but if it has to be this way, it will be.”
- Today’s scheduled Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal has been postponed after it was discovered that the owner of the Greek club Olympiakos, who some Arsenal players had contact with when their teams met in the Europa League on February 27, has tested positive for the new coronavirus. The Wolverhampton Wanderers, meanwhile, will go ahead and travel to Olympiakos to play their Europa League match there under protest, after UEFA refused to postpone the match.
- The Spanish players’ union has called for all La Liga games, currently set to be played in empty stadiums for the rest of the month, to instead be postponed for fear of players getting infected.
- In the U.S., Washington state governor Jay Inslee is expected to announce today a ban on all gatherings of more than 250 people in three counties around Seattle amid a virus outbreak there. The Seattle Mariners are reportedly considering playing their opening two home series in Arizona, but if more cities see outbreaks, merely moving games may become a less viable option.
- The Mid-American and Big West conferences have announced that their basketball tournaments will be closed to fans, and the Ivy League has called its off entirely, as the NCAA continues to be noncommital about how it will handle its tournament set to start next week in multiple cities.
- The Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes are both in no-large-public-event zones, and they might prefer to postpone games rather than playing them behind closed doors, because nobody watches MLS on TV.
- The NBA still has no idea what it’s going to do, man.
- Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis is planning to invite all 12,000 construction workers to dinner at his new stadium once it’s complete, though that isn’t scheduled to be until August, so maybe staging dinner for 12,000 won’t seem like such a terrible idea by then.
Now, all this could be taken as a sign more of the spread of coronavirus fear than of the actual virus, and there’s some truth to that. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that if anything, fear is just catching up to the reality: The number of actual infections is almost certainly many, many times the number of confirmed cases, especially in nations like the U.S. where testing has been sporadic at best and impossible to access at worst. And with social distancing measures that slow the spread of the disease the best proven bulwark against an overwhelmed medical system that would cause deaths to skyrocket — closing schools, theaters, and other public places saved St. Louis during the 1918 flu epidemic! — we’re moving very quickly from “maybe some games should be played behind closed doors” to “maybe we need to rethink all major public events until we’ve flattened the curve.”
For those struggling to keep up with the morass of media coverage on this issue — which has been great in places but also terrible in others because the media is currently understaffed, underexperienced, and more prone than ever to making reporting decisions based on clicks and whatever the rich guy who owns the one remaining local news outlet wants — I wrote an article yesterday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting on how to read the coronavirus news without scaring yourself too much (or too little). In the 24 hours since, some of it has already begun to seem out of date, but hopefully the rest will still be useful for the next couple of days, which is starting to feel like as far as we can look into the future with any certainty. Stay safe out there, and stay away from crowds as much as possible.