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Spiking COVID-19 Cases Cause the Cancellation of Some Early Events

29 Jun, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Not so fast seems to be the philosophy at work. The first states in the U.S. to adopt aggressive reopening protocols are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases that is forcing the cancellation of sports events that were unfortunately, planned with a message of “We’re stronger than the coronavirus.”

Among the cancellations were several IRONMAN events; one was planned for both Boulder, Colorado (in August), and two were to be held in Lake Placid, New York (one in late July and one in mid-September). IRONMAN also cancelled an event in Lubbock, Texas, that was supposed to take place in late June.

All those events coincided with either spikes in COVID-19 cases or with lost gambles – where event owners were counting on states relaxing restrictions by event time.

In Boulder, for example, Colorado state officials could offer little hope for local ordinances to change in time for the event to be held safely, even with IRONMAN’s safety protocols in place.

In New York, the two IRONMAN events coincided with the continuing problem with COVID-19. The New York Times notes that by the end of June, more than 22,000 people had died and nearly 220,000 cases were diagnosed.

New York, an enormous hot spot for COVID-19, has been trying to keep sports events safe; the recent Belmont Stakes race was held without spectators., but was described as having “empty grandstands full of hope.”

Hope, though, isn’t filling the coffers of New York's sports commissions and CVBs, where officials had been looking forward to a rebound of the travel economy over the summer, and with new travel restrictions in place, including a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all individuals entering the state from areas with a high COVID rate, it's not looking good. FLW just moved its July 9 Toyota Series Northern Division Opener from the St. Lawrence River at Massena, New York, to Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio. New Jersey and Connecticut have similar restrictions in place.

The New York Times added, “Every day, more beloved events are scrubbed from the calendar. There will be no Johnson County Old Settlers celebration in Kansas, no Riot Fest in Chicago, no National Tractor Pulling Championships in Ohio.”

Unfortunately, as the weather warms up and as the wish mounts to travel to events, the data shows caution should still be a factor. The New York Times noted, “The nation recorded a new high point with 36,975 new cases on Wednesday (June 24), nearly two months after many states began to reopen with the hope of salvaging the economy and the livelihoods of millions of Americans. Alabama, Missouri, Montana and Utah all hit new daily case records on Thursday (June 25).” And, it was noted, The New York Times has found that official tallies in the United States and in more than a dozen other countries have undercounted deaths during the coronavirus outbreak because of limited testing availability.”

This map shows nationwide up-to-the-minute COVID-19 information.

Among those states determined to reopen, Missouri became famous (or perhaps infamous) nationwide after pictures circulated from USA TODAY showed guests at Lake of the Ozarks crammed into a pool, none wearing any kind of protection and many holding children and babies.

In Florida, another early-opening state, events are moving forward boldly. ESPN noted that the NBA's board of governors overwhelmingly approved a proposal for 22 teams to return to play, starting July 31 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Postponements also abound. The Tour de France has been postponed -- it is now due to start on Aug. 29. And the AAU Junior Olympics moved from the original 2020 location in Hampton Roads, Virginia, to Florida’s Space Coast (Brevard County) after Hampton University was shut down due to concerns over the coronavirus. The event was originally scheduled to run in early August. Space Coast also recently picked up another major event; USA Triathlon has moved its 2020 Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Championships from Long Beach, California (originally scheduled for mid-July), to the Space Coast, on September 20.

But even Florida may not be opening as quickly as it hopes. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had previously shown a strong aversion to shutting the state down once more, said he did not intend to move to the next phase of reopening. “We never anticipated necessarily doing anything different in terms of the next phase at this point anyways,” he said on Thursday in Tampa. “We are where we are.”

He is not alone. In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper paused further reopenings for three weeks and ordered residents to wear masks in public. In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, said that “any discussion of entering Phase 3 will be tabled.” And in Texas, where cases recently surged to record levels, Gov. Greg Abbott advised state residents to stay home as much as possible.

USA Baseball, which had been moving ahead with many events, announced in the last week of June that it had cancelled its all 2020 National Team Identification Series events. The NTIS hosts tryouts in every region of the country for athletes to be identified and selected for their region teams. Each region team then travels to Cary, North Carolina, for the Champions Cup, where the athletes are evaluated and scouted by national team coaches and task force members for the chance to play on a future USA Baseball national team or participate in a national team development program. The Cary, North Carolina facility remains closed and officials at USA Baseball have noted that regional identification events for the 2021 edition of the NTIS Champions Cup may begin on September 4, 2020. Additionally, the organization notes, all remaining events scheduled on the 2020 calendar continue to be subject to cancellation or postponement.

In Arizona, notes the Washington Post, where the state relaxed restrictions, testing centers can’t keep up with the demand for testing and hospitals are filling up. Restaurants are again shutting down, more than a month after Arizona reopened its economy under the mantra “Return Stronger” and the state has emerged as an epicenter of COVID-19 cases.Arizona, in fact, is facing more per capita cases than recorded by any country in Europe or even by hard-hit Brazil, and no state has seen its rate of hospitalizations increase more rapidly since Memorial Day.

According to the New York Times, the uptick in cases has proven to be a failed litmus tests for states intending to balance the risk of the virus against the need to save jobs (and in some cases, leaders’ wish to remain popular with voters).

“It hasn’t worked out as they planned,” said Kent Smetters, the director of the Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania, which is analyzing the impact of government policies on coronavirus deaths and the economy. “By reopening, they have seen cases go up, and they have made a lot of people scared” to visit restaurants and other businesses, he said, adding that “people’s confidence is the key driver in this.”

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