Shams Charanannanaia dropped his own fire-sparkle on Twitter last night, indicating that the NBA has sent orders to its teams to have contingency plans should the league need to play games in empty arenas:
Sources: The NBA has sent a memo to its franchises explaining that, due to coronavirus outbreak, teams should be preparing to play games without fans in attendance and identifying “essential staff” present for these games — should it be necessary.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 7, 2020
And it will be.
The sooner you accept that, the better.
Because there will almost certainly be games – NBA games, NCAA games, MLB games – played in empty stadiums and arenas in the coming weeks or months.
If you still don’t understand why these measures are being implemented overseas and discussed here, then I encourage you to check out this video I tweeted last night:
For anyone who thinks the US media is blowing Coronavirus out of proportion, watch this (horrifying) sober account from the UK and then let me know how you feel— we should be shutting down a lot more public events, including sports https://t.co/6Cq5xOAvuo
— Kyle Scott (@CrossingBroad) March 7, 2020
The replies are a garbage heap of ignorance and idiocy.
And while I could get into the litany of reasons why we as Americans are willfully unprepared for what’s coming down the pike, it’s Saturday and I have parenting to do.
So I’ll just address the most common incorrect retort, which usually goes something like this: It’s the flu, and the flu kills [insert likely incorrect number they saw in a meme on Facebook] people each year. Stop being a [insert some moniker for a lady part].
It’s not the flu.
That’s the simple response. The more detailed one is that it’s math.
Yes, the flu has killed somewhere between 29,000 and 50,000 Americans this season, according to the CDC. Coronavirus has killed about 3,600 people so far worldwide.
The difference is the latter has only existed for about three months. It’s not, like, done.
It will continue to grow, exponentially. And because no one on Earth other than the 97,000 people who already have it and didn’t die has any immunity to it, it will spread rapidly. A vaccine is likely at least 12 months away. The WHO and other experts have recently said that they believe Covid-19 may not slow during the summer like the flu.
That all leads you to the conclusion that large segments of the adult population may eventually get the virus. And don’t take it from me, take it from Marc Lipsitch, whose Twitter bio is more impressive than yours (or mine): “Infectious disease epidemiologist and microbiologist, aspirational barista. firstname.lastname@example.org Director @CCDD_HSPH”.
He predicts anywhere from 20%-60% of the adult population will get it.
Because I am now less certain of where the R0 will end up (and how it may vary geographically) I am going to revise downward the range of outcomes I consider plausible to 20%-60% of adults infected. This involves subjectivity about what range of R0 may turn out to be true.
— Marc Lipsitch (@mlipsitch) March 3, 2020
It’s also more deadly than the flu, which – on the very highest end of the estimate – kills 0.1% of the people it infects.
Estimates vary for Coronavirus’ true death rate because undoubtedly not all cases have been tested, but the most optimistic estimations fall somewhere between 0.5%-1.0% (the WHO calculates 3.4%, but most experts agree this is high). That means it’s at least 5-10 times more deadly than the flu.
I’ll let you do the math on all that – it looks like we need the practice – and then you can decide if you still think it’s just the flu.
And it turns out, the only way to stop all of this is to do what China did, shutdown life for two months, and give your resources the necessary breathing room to deal with a gradual swell of cases, rather than one big spike. This buys time to develop a treatment and vaccine, limiting the overall impact.
But our ignorance towards all of this is a hurdle. And LeBron James ain’t helping:
“We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible. I ain’t playing, if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd, that’s who I play for.
—LeBron James on the possibility of playing games without fans in attendance due to concerns from the Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/E3Yb41YfCK
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 7, 2020
Me thinks his agent will eventually remind him that millions more watch on TV, and then they buy his sneakers and watch his movies and so on. Damn, just when you think there is no argument to dislike LeBron, he goes and says something not only dumb, but also potentially harmful.
The NCAA, too, has plans to play games in empty arenas:
The NCAA's worst-case scenario for March Madness is barring spectators and screening players for illness, not canceling games, it says https://t.co/Uk45LrFkQE
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) March 7, 2020
Sporting events are society’s largest, frequent gathering places. It makes sense to shut them down for a period of time to limit the damage.
March Madness games, to me, seem uniquely positioned to be super-spreading events.
Think about it: Unlike NBA games, where a large majority of the fans in attendance are local and thus a spread could somewhat be contained to a geographical area, NCAA games bring in fan bases from up to eight different cities into one arena. Now imagine that one pocket is infected, and spreads it to the other pockets, which then go back to their cities and, worse, campuses, and dispense it across the gloriously-firm rims of beer pong-approved red Solo Cups.
Yeah, they need to play sports in empty buildings for the next few months. And I think they will.