NBA owners are set for conference call to discuss future games amid virus scare; Jazz’s Vivint Arena asks ill customers to stay away

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) Frank Zang, Vice President of Communications at Larry H. Miller Group, washes his hands at a hand sanitizer station at Vivint Smart Home Arena ahead of a game between the Jazz and the Raptors on Monday, March 9, 2020.

As the possibility of a wider COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. became increasingly clear to sports decision-makers on Monday, Utah sports teams and national sports leagues took steps to mitigate the spread of the disease.

At Salt Lake City’s Vivint Arena, executives asked employees and patrons alike to stay home if feeling sick.

"We have asked our employees, and would extend the same invitation to our guests and customers, that if they are feeling ill, especially if they have any of the documented symptoms of the Coronavirus, that they exercise caution and delay visiting our places of businesses until they are symptom-free,” Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO Steve Starks said in a statement. LHM has also asked employees to suspend all nonessential business trips.

Vivint Arena also said it was taking further precautionary steps, like sanitizing high-contact surfaces such as door handles multiple times per day, along with placing additional hand-sanitizer dispensers in the arena. During the game, they displayed coronavirus safety information on the Jumbotron.

Meanwhile, the NBA scheduled a conference call among team owners to “discuss next steps in the growing coronavirus crisis,” ESPN reported Monday. That call will take place on Wednesday, and will discuss the league’s contingency plan if the crisis were to get worse in the coming days and weeks. Teams were asked last week to develop procedures for if games had to be played without fans, while Wednesday’s conference call plans to discuss when those measures might be put into place.

On Sunday, The BNP Paribas Open professional tennis tournament at Indian Wells, Calif., was canceled, due to Riverside County declaring a state of emergency after a confirmed case was discovered in the area. All Italian sporting events were suspended until April 4. A scheduled Team USA Olympic Media Summit scheduled for this upcoming weekend in Los Angeles was postponed until further notice, and Greek officials aren’t allowing spectators for the traditional lighting of the torch in Athens.

Beyond cancellations, the crisis has also made teams change standard media operating procedures. Beginning Tuesday, all of the NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS will close locker rooms to reporters, leaving them available to only players and essential team personnel. Other media sessions will require a 6-8 foot distance from reporters to players and coaches.

The Jazz implemented that procedure Monday. In addition, the team’s media availability after morning shootaround was moved from the Zions Bank Basketball Campus’ court to a news conference room in a different part of the building, where tables were set with the increased distance. Pregame media availability, typically held in “scrum” fashion, was run like a postgame availability, with head coach Quin Snyder sitting at a desk on a podium, separated from seated reporters.

“The coronavirus poses a serious health threat to everyone. ... We understand the NBA’s decision to temporarily close locker rooms to everyone but players and essential team personnel with the NBA’s promise that once the coronavirus crisis abates, the league will restore full access to the journalists who cover the league,” the Professional Basketball Writers Association said in a statement.

Jazz head athletic trainer Eric Waters and Jazz medical personnel created a presentation for Jazz players, to “raise awareness and to also alleviate concerns that aren’t as founded,” Snyder explained.

“It’s also important for us to handle it and be educated, take the measures that are recommended, and then try to just focus on what we’re doing while continuing to listen to the professionals that can give us guidance,” Snyder said.