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The already delayed professional seasons in North America could be on hiatus for significantly longer than first planned after federal officials said Sunday night that they recommend all in-person events involving 50 people or more be called off for the next eight weeks.
That’s twice as long as the 30-day shutdowns that the NBA, the NHL and Major League Soccer decided to put into place last week in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Major League Baseball also was going with what essentially was a 30-day shutdown after canceling the rest of spring training and pushing back the start of regular season play for two weeks; opening day was to have been March 26.
But new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seem to suggest that sports in this country could for all intents and purposes be gone until May, if not later.
“CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers … cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States,” it said. “Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing.”
The eight-week window easily exceeds what would have been the remainder of the NBA and NHL regular seasons, plus would cover about the first 25 percent of the baseball season, or roughly 40 games per team. It would also cast serious doubt on the ability to hold other major U.S. sporting events as planned, such as the Kentucky Derby on May 2.
The NBA had already been asking teams to share availability for their arenas through the end of July. NHL teams had been asked to work with their arenas to secure possible playoff dates into July, the New York Post reported last week.
In other notable developments Sunday:
•One of the prep races for the Kentucky Derby was canceled. The $700,000 Sunland Derby on March 22 in New Mexico was called off, the El Paso Times reported. Officials at the track across the border from El Paso, Texas, also said Sunday would be the last day of racing to comply with the request of the governor. The meet was scheduled to end April 21.
•Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., announced it will be closed to all non-essential guests starting today. Only essential employees, owners, trainers, veterinarians, blacksmiths and stable workers will be allowed into the track. The track will set up screening checkpoints to monitor those seeking access, and everyone will have their temperature taken. Only people with a temperature less than 100.5 degrees and showing no symptoms of the virus, technically known as COVID-19, will be admitted. The screening will continue indefinitely.
•Professional soccer is shutting down in Mexico following Sunday’s matches, which were already being played with no fans present. And Brazil’s soccer confederation suspended all competitions under its control. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said suspending sports in the country is “hysteria.”
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