Dear NWBA Members and Friends,
On Thursday, March 5th, I provided an update on the NWBA’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the implications to our 2020 Adult and Junior Division Nationals scheduled for March 12-15 and Collegiate Nationals March 18-21. Since that time, we have had a few inquiries from members and their families, or organizations that oversee one of our member teams. Of the 96 combined Adult and Junior teams that have qualified to compete at Nationals in Wichita, 93 remain committed to attend. Competition schedule will remain the same at this time, and we will ensure teams compete in four games minimum.
NWBA leadership has been constantly monitoring other sport organizations and their approach to hosting events. The NBA and NCAA have continued to hold their games. The NCAA Division I has had one game without fans, based on the location of that event, while all others have been unchanged. From a grassroots perspective, USA Volleyball has held their youth tournaments. For example, the Ohio Volleyball Association just completed their Bluegrass Invitational on March 8th. This tournament consisted of hundreds of girls’ volleyball teams (thousands of athletes) and was hosted at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC), former home of The National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.
Beyond moving forward with their scheduled events, one constant across these organizations is their guidance to participants and fans to exercise the right behaviors:
- If sick, stay home
- If symptomatic, seek testing and self-quarantine
- Practice good hygiene at all times
There have been a few people who asked the NWBA why we are not postponing this event. The primary reason is the aforementioned benchmarking of other organizations and observing their response. Teams and athletes have invested significant time and effort to prepare and qualify for this competition. The NWBA and many teams also have significant dollars already invested in this event. If we do not move forward this weekend, we would need to cancel the National Tournament this year. That would be the first year in 72 years, since Dr. Nugent’s great experiment, that we would not host a National Tournament. Finding a host city and Local Organizing Committee (LOC) that can effectively host a wheelchair basketball competition of this magnitude (96 teams and 1,100 athletes) is a massive undertaking.
If the data suggests that we should cancel, then we would take that stand at that time. We do not, based on the benchmarking above, feel that we are at that point. New York State is an interesting case in painting the picture of this situation. New York has declared a state of emergency and when asked why, Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “The state of emergency gives us additional flexibility to do things faster: purchasing, hiring of staff, etcetera.” When articulating the importance of focusing on facts in this type of situation, he went on to describe the elderly as the vulnerable population and cited particular concern for those clustered in nursing facilities. He continued: “It’s Important that we don’t feed this undue hysteria and fear that is out there … anxiety is outpacing reality, partly because people don’t know who to believe.”
We fully appreciate that this is a difficult choice for athletes, teams, partners and all other people who contribute to our sport and this event.
A thorough summary of how each league and federation (globally) is dealing with this matter can be found at this link: https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2020-03-09/coronavirus-latest-news-sports-world
As you can see, they are calling for increased vigilance around hygiene. None of these leagues have canceled competitions.
We met with Visit Wichita this morning, and they shared:
The health and wellbeing of our visitors is a priority for Visit Wichita. We are in communications with our health agency at Sedgwick County who have shared information regarding COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus recently reported in the U.S. As of March 9th, we have no confirmed cases in Sedgwick County. We continue to work daily with this agency who is leading the response for COVID-19 in our area. As participants, we also wanted you to know that the host facilities are taking extra precautions such as:
· Making additional hand sanitizers available in all heavily trafficked areas
· Disinfecting areas such as buttons in elevators, door handles, toilets, telephones, handrails, reception desks and tables
· Urging those who aren’t feeling well to stay home or in the hotel and seek medical attention when necessary
· Following the most up to date information from our health department
Visit Wichita just hosted the NAIA Wrestling National Championships, which included over 5,000 visitors to Wichita this past weekend.
To review the original article from last week, click the following: www.nwba.org/responseoncoronavirus
The NWBA will continue to watch this situation closely and update our website with the latest information. We look forward to seeing you in Wichita on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Officer