Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday he will issue an executive order barring mass gatherings to include barring fans from attending the NCAA Tournament's First Four in Dayton and the first and second rounds in Cleveland.
DeWine said on Tuesday that the state asks for no athletic events to be held with spectators other than athletes, parents, and others essential to the game in response to concerns over coronavirus, but by issuing an order to include the First Four on March 17-18 and first and second-round games in Cleveland on March 20 and 22, means the first time an event associated with the NCAA Tournament has been ordered to be held without fans.
"We will shortly be issuing rules in regard to mass gatherings in the state of Ohio," said Gov. DeWine. "Every expert has told us that there is a risk in mass gatherings. The bigger the gathering, the more the risk. The closer you are in proximity to other people, the bigger the risk. So everyone needs to protect themselves by making those judgments."
DeWine emphasized that, "at a minimum," what was said Tuesday about mass gatherings and crowd containment will soon become an order. When asked if it meant NCAA Tournament games in the state would be held without spectators, he responded: "We'll have an order, yes."
The state confirmed its fourth COVID-19 case on Wednesday from a man with no travel history outside the U.S., indicating the coronavirus has now reached community spread -- which changed how DeWine and the state have approached the issue. The confirmed fourth case comes on the heels of the World Health Organization officially characterizing COVID-19 as a pandemic.
"We have a change today," said DeWine. "The change is, community spread takes us into a different area." DeWine added that additional information on community spread and an update on COVID-19 will be shared on Thursday.
The Big West and MAC on Tuesday announced their respective postseason tournaments would be held without spectators, with individuals only relevant to carrying out the competition allowed involvement.