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News >  Spokane

BYU fan with coronavirus attended BYU-Gonzaga men’s game in Provo

UPDATED: Mon., March 9, 2020

BYU students and fans celebrate on the court following their victory over Gonzaga following an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (Rick Bowmer / AP)
BYU students and fans celebrate on the court following their victory over Gonzaga following an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (Rick Bowmer / AP)

LAS VEGAS – The international coronavirus outbreak has now touched the West Coast Conference, though the league doesn’t plan on taking any extreme measures after it was learned Monday a man who attended a Feb. 22 game between Gonzaga and Brigham Young in Provo, Utah, was diagnosed with the fast-spreading disease.

The man, who is older than 60, may have contracted the virus on a cruise ship before returning home to Utah and attending the sold-out WCC game at the Marriott Center, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday. Though BYU officials have said the “risk of transmission is low,” the man is under county-issued isolation order, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Per BYU, the man exhibited symptoms of coronavirus before attending the game, which attracted more than 19,000 fans, and “as a precaution, those who were sitting within six feet of the individual are being contacted to let them know of the possible exposure,” according to a school statement.

Gonzaga beat San Francisco in the semifinal round of the West Coast Conference Tournament Monday evening in Las Vegas. BYU and Saint Mary’s played in the nightcap.

“We’ve been on this issue weeks before we came here,” WCC Commissioner Gloria Nevarez said at a news conference Monday evening prior to the first semifinal. “Our response, we’ve been communicating consistently with federal and local authorities in this area. We have met all and are following all of the CDC guidelines on sanitization and in fact have stepped up our efforts as our crowds have increased and the days have progressed.

“We are also communicating closely with all of our teams and their medical personnel so we are getting up-to-the-minute updates, and that’s including BYU at the highest level. So, we’re in constant communication with them.”

According to Nevarez, the conference doesn’t have any facts at this point that “would dictate event cancellation.” Conference tournaments for the Pac-12 women and Mountain West women were recently held in Las Vegas, while tournaments for the Pac-12 men and Western Athletic Conference men and women will begin in the city later this week.

Nevarez said the WCC has taken precautionary efforts that include sanitizing the team benches, locker rooms and other high-touch areas. Conference officials have also encouraged athletes to avoid public high-fiving and signing autographs in order to prevent the spreading of germs.

“The venue has been in high sanitation mode, both in the hotel property and the arena, providing extra sanitation stations around,” Nevarez said. “According to the CDC, advising everyone washing your hands and not touching your face is the best protocol.”

Gonzaga Athletic Director Mike Roth said the Bulldogs are following the same protocol they follow during heavy flu season, which usually overlaps with the college basketball calendar.

“So it’s the same kind of precautions you take,” Roth said Monday. “Don’t share stuff, wash your hands a lot, make sure you’re trying not to touch your face. All the protocols from that standpoint. And again, we’ve been lucky enough Spokane County doesn’t have a diagnosed case at this point and every year we’re trying our best to keep our guys healthy and this year there’s just one more bug out there I guess.”

Roth said the Bulldogs are also fortunate to avoid commercial flights and airports, where disease can be easily transmitted. Both Gonzaga basketball teams traveled to Las Vegas for the conference tournament on private charter jets.

“That way we’re not as exposed to that recycled air on an airplane with people we don’t know who they are or where they’re from,” Roth said.

Amid coronavirus fears, the NCAA still plans to hold its men’s basketball tournament at all 14 venues with spectators, Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt confirmed Sunday on CBS. Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena will serve as host site for the first two rounds of the men’s tournament, on March 19 and 21. The Gonzaga women may also still host regional NCAA tournament games at McCarthey Athletic Center.

“It would be really, really unfortunate if games had to be played without anybody in the building,” Roth said. “… Because those are things you can’t ever make up. … We’ll just have to wait and see. I know the NCAA’s paying really close attention.”

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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