Johns Hopkins has made a major decision about Division III basketball's upcoming postseason tournament games on its campus in Baltimore, Maryland: there will be no spectators. It announced Thursday that in response to recently confirmed cases of CO-VID19 (the strain of coronavirus that has made its way across the world in recent months) in the area, the games will move forward without fans.
"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," Johns Hopkins said. "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."
The NCAA announced in a statement earlier this week that it is committed to conducting its championships and events in a safe and responsible manner, but that a daily evaluation of the situation was taking place as CO-VID19 spreads and evolves throughout the states. Those evaluating the situation include a panel of experts in the medical, public health and epidemiology fields qualified to make judgements on the virus's spread and impact on the general public.
Those decisions from the NCAA and its newly-formed panel are being made hand-in-hand with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC has stated that the potential public health threat of the coronavirus is high, though the immediate risk is generally low for the public now.
Across basketball, this is just the latest tremor in the sport as teams try and manuever a delicate public health situation. Just this week, Chicago State forfeited its games against Seattle University and Utah Valley over COVID-19 concerns on the west coast. There have been no major edicts from the NCAA about how to handle COVID-19 concerns, however, the A-10 preemptively banned handshakes before and after games as a precaution and has instead implemented the "forearm bump." On Thursday, that was more or less how Dan Hurley and Kelvin Sampson greeted one another in the postgame handshake line.
It's too soon to tell if one host site banning spectators at the D3 level is foreshadowing of what may come of the NCAA Tournament and March Madness, but it's clear the NCAA is monitoring each location and situation individually and is prepared to make tough decisions if needed in the interest of the public.