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Penguins games could be affected by the coronavirus as soon as this week

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The spread of the COVID-19 virus figures to alter the NHL landscape sooner than later

Pittsburgh Penguins v Vancouver Canucks Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

This is far from a science blog, but it looks like the spread and response to the coronavirus COVID-19 will soon encroach into sports, the NHL, daily life in America, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Take the Pens’ scheduled game this Thursday in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. The admission of the public now has an air of uncertainty based on the comments by the governor of Ohio today.

There is no official word (yet) as of what precautions or plans the Blue Jackets will or will not implement based on this recommendation. Elsewhere in Columbus at the Ohio State University, they have suspended in-person classes through March 30th. Across the state of Ohio, a St. Patrick’s Day parade has been cancelled in Cleveland and NCAA basketball conference tournaments have a big time air of uncertainty, especially for whether or not the public will be permitted to enter.

Back in the hockey world, the only official steps taken so far have been by pro sporting leagues to regulate and limit media contact with players. Here’s a statement we received:

Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) today issued the following joint statement:

“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These changes will be effective beginning with tomorrow’s games and practices.

“We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”

This whole issue and virus feels like it is spreading and becoming a bigger deal by the day, and one that teams like the Penguins will have to deal with disruption — or at least the POTENTIAL for some sort of disruption — at any given moment. For instance, the Pens are very close to New York City today (just across the river in Newark) where the NYC mayor has said this afternoon about new cases:

“They’re coming in so intensely now that being able to give you a detailed case breakdown, we’re not in that position to do that at this moment because there are so many coming forward,” de Blasio said, speaking at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. “As of 12 noon … the number of confirmed cases in New York City is 36, that’s 16 new since yesterday and 11 new even since this morning at 7 a.m. when I last spoke about this.”

This situation is evolving in terms of the spread and effect of the virus, as well as the response and precautions being taken to help stem the spread. Everyone is in the same boat right now to see what happens and just how big of disruptions will be required, but if the governor of Ohio gets his wish there wouldn’t be any fans at the Pens/Blue Jackets game on Thursday night.

The Pens have talked about this a little so far too, here’s the update today from penguins.com

Both Sullivan and Sidney Crosby used the same phrase when discussing that and any other measures that may have been put in place to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) - it is what it is.

”It’s something that is completely out of our control,” Sullivan said. “We’re taking the direction of the league and the CDC and we trust that they’re going to advise us the right way. And we’re cooperating in that regard. I know our doctors have been in constant contact with the infectious disease people at UPMC and trying to strategize and make sure we do everything internally that we can to do our best to do the right thing. That’s all we can do.

”Everybody watches the news and reads the papers and understands that this is something that’s a global challenge. This isn’t just affecting our small domain in pro sports. This is affecting the entire globe. All we can do is focus on those things that we can control.”

Seems like they, like most of us, are in a type of “wait and see” mode to see what happens moving forward. Which is an unusual situation to be in, but such is life right now in 2020.

UPDATE: As of now, the Blue Jackets are proceeding like normal with no fan restrictions for the game against the Pens on Thursday.