Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced on Wednesday that all social gatherings of more than 250 people would be prohibited for the rest of March as a direct response to address the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
Additionally, Seattle and King County health officer Jeff Duchin imposed further restrictions for gatherings of less than 250 people in King County without specific measures enacted to ensure social distancing parameters are in place.
"I want you to know in reaching this decision, it has been a weighty one," Inslee said. "I've talked with our local, and state, and national leaders. I find a remarkable alliance in thinking that we share and I've very happy about the unity that we have on this issue.
"We're going to fight this epidemic as much as we can and the reason is we do not want to see an avalanche of people coming into our hospitals with limited capacity. We have a solid plan for increasing capacity as far as possible to accommodate what could be thousands of people who need serious medical attention. But that will be stretched at best so all of us have to think about ways to be creative to both increase that capacity and reduce the demands on that system."
Inslee also noted the high likelihood the restrictions will extend beyond the end of March. The World Heath Organization officially declared the virus a pandemic on Wednesday.
While the edict with have a sizable effect on all aspects of the greater community as a whole, the announcement has already had a profound impact on the local sports teams.
The Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders, Seattle Dragons, University of Washington and Seattle University athletics, Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips will all be directly impacted by the virus response.
-- The Mariners were scheduled to open their season at home on March 26 with a six-game homestand to follow against the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins. Outside of deciding to play those games at T-Mobile Park without fans in attendance, the chances of those games proceeding as scheduled appear to be shot.
"Following Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement this morning that he is banning large group events through March, the Seattle Mariners are working with the Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner on alternative plans for our games that were scheduled for the end of March at T-Mobile Park in Seattle," the team said in a statement following the announcement.
"While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration.
"We will provide more information about our plans for the games as it becomes available.
"Season Ticket Members, Suite Holders and Group Buyers will automatically receive a credit for tickets to un-played games. The credit will be applied by March 19 and may be used to purchase tickets for any other 2020 regular season home game.
"Single-game ticket holders who purchased tickets directly through the Seattle Mariners will be automatically refunded to the credit card, debit card, gift card or other method of payment used to make your purchase. Additional details will be communicated directly to purchasers via email by March 14."
-- The Seattle Sounders have postponed their March 21 home match against FC Dallas.
"As the developments surrounding COVID-19 in our region evolve, Seattle Sounders FC has been working in real time with regional health authorities and government officials to do our part in combating this public health crisis. Our organization must remain flexible in these efforts, and at this time, that includes heeding Governor Inslee's call to postpone our home match on March 21 versus FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field.
"Throughout this process, Sounders FC has stated that nothing is more important than public safety and the well being of our fans. With that in mind, we respect the difficult decision that has been made today, and our club will continue following the guidelines set forth by our public health authorities and government agencies. We will maintain our consistent dialogue with elected leadership, public health officials and Major League Soccer, and as more information becomes available, the club will continue to provide public updates. This includes details about rescheduling the FC Dallas match for a later date."
-- The University of Washington announced that they are restricting access to their athletic activities.
"Following today's actions by Washington Governor Jay Inslee to limit event crowd sizes to less than 250 people across King County until further notice during the evolving COVID-19 situation, the University of Washington athletic department has announced measures, including restricting spectators at home events, to adhere to this new policy. Our hearts go out to those impacted by COVID-19, and we and our student athletes understand the critical importance of protecting those most susceptible to the virus.
"Effective immediately, attendance at all home athletic events will be restricted to competing student-athletes, coaches and essential working personnel only, which includes credentialed media members, until further notice. In addition, student-athletes' families & recruits will be permitted to attend home events.
"As of now, all scheduled games will proceed as planned in their previously announced location."
-- The Seattle Dragons are set to host the Los Angeles Wildcats this Saturday at CenutryLink Field. That game will proceed but without fans in attendance. It will be broadcast on television as scheduled.
"Based on the proclamation issued Wednesday by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the Seattle Dragons will host the LA Wildcats this Sunday, as scheduled. The game will take place at 4pm PT at CenturyLink Field without fans in the venue. The game will be broadcast live, also as scheduled, on ESPN2."
-- The effects are being felt across the country and not just in the Seattle area as well. NCAA President Mark Emmertt made the call to hold both the men's and women's NCAA basketball championships without fans in attendance.
“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel," Emmert said in the statement. "Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance. While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.”
-- The Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips alongside the Western Hockey League released a joint statement that they will adhere to the guidelines imposed by the Governor as well.
The Western Hockey League, Everett Silvertips, and Seattle Thunderbirds are aware of the order made by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee to prohibit public and private mass gatherings of more than 250 persons. The WHL, Silvertips, and Thunderbirds will adhere to the mandated guidelines in the Greater Seattle area.
The WHL, Silvertips, and Thunderbirds will be reviewing each WHL regular season event scheduled to take place for the rest of the month in the Greater Seattle area. More information will be provided when it is available.
“The WHL fully understands and respects the position taken by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee today and will comply with the public gathering requirements for the upcoming WHL home games of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “We take the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans, and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously, and will take every step necessary to assist in containing this virus.”
The Silvertips specifically will hold their March 20 game against the Victoria Royals as scheduled without fans in attendance.
"As the safety and well being of our fans is top priority, while acknowledging the investments they have made, all tickets purchased for March 20 will be honored at a future Silvertips home game of the purchaser's choice. Multi-level ticket exchanges, vouchers, and information on future tickets are currently in progress and the Silvertips are expected to provide updates soon."
The Thunderbirds will do the same for their upcoming home games against Vancouver and Spokane.
"The T-Birds games on Saturday, March 14, against the Vancouver Giants and Tuesday, March 17, against the Spokane Chiefs at accesso ShoWare Center will be played with no fans in attendance.
"A determination on the status of the game on Saturday, March 21, against the Portland Winterhawks at accesso ShoWare Center will be made in the coming days.
"The T-Birds appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans and partners during this unprecedented time."
Photo Credit: Washington Governor Jay Inslee addresses assembled reporters as bans of gatherings of over 250 people are prohibited in an effort to lessen the impacts of the COVID-19 virus. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / Sports Radio 950 KJR)