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NCAA preparing for possible coronavirus impact on March Madness

NCAA preparing for possible coronavirus impact on March Madness
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The NCAA is preparing for the potential spread of coronavirus in the U.S. and how that could affect its annual March Madness basketball tournament.

The NCAA said Thursday that its Sport Science Institute distributed memos to member schools referring them to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resources ahead of the tournament, which is slated to begin March 17.

"NCAA staff continues to prepare for March Madness but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the CDC," the NCAA said in a statement.

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The NCAA released two memos to athletics directors, health administrators, conference commissioners and head athletic trainers and team physicians with links to the CDC’s website addressing travel, symptoms and campus leadership. 

"Regarding championship play for the winter and spring seasons, the NCAA is taking concerted steps to maintain the first-rate delivery of NCAA championship experiences for participating student-athletes, team personnel and fans," one of the memos sent Feb. 13 said.

The memo added that championship staff members will enforce their health and safety checklist with host schools, conferences and community partners and will continue to monitor the epidemic. It said the association has “the primary responsibility for ensuring that actionable plans are in place” to respond to a potential epidemic. 

“As they would with any public health crisis, championships staff will add appropriate safeguards in coordination with campus and local health response teams to address COVID-19 concerns,” the statement said.

The first memo was sent Jan. 28 after the first coronavirus case in the U.S. was confirmed from a person returning from Wuhan, China.

"The NCAA Sport Science Institute encourages athletics departments to carefully review these materials with applicable institutional health care providers and other relevant campus personnel and to implement, as necessary, appropriate risk-mitigating initiatives," read the memo.

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USA Today first reported on the NCAA's distribution of memos.

The NCAA’s memos come as the U.S. braces for a potential coronavirus epidemic in the country, which could close schools and cancel large gatherings like major sports events, Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Tuesday

"Disruption to everyday life may be severe," Messonnier had said.

The coronavirus has spread to more than 82,000 cases, including 60 in the U.S., and killed more than 2,800 people nationwide.

Updated at 11:40 a.m.